Australian paleontologists at Flinders University have described an ancient Papua New Guinea kangaroo that was gigantic.
The new description of the fossil kangaroo found that rather than being closely related to the Australian kangaroo, it likely belonged to a unique and more primitive kangaroo genus, found only in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
This ancient Papua New Guinea kangaroo, first described in 1983 by Professor Tim Flannery, is known from fossils around 20,000-50,000 years old. They come from Nombe Rockshelter, an archaeological and excavation site in Chimbu County, Papua New Guinea.
Numb is already known to several extinct species of giant four-legged kangaroos and marsupials, called diprotodontids, notes Eurek Alert.
An ancient kangaroo from Papua New Guinea that was stifling and muscular
Researchers at Flinders University have renamed the animal numbe numbeafter the place where it was discovered, and plans to return to PNG for further excavations and research in 2023.
numbe, which were bushy and muscular, inhabited a diverse mountain rainforest with dense shrubs and closed crowns. They evolved there to feed on the hard leaves of trees and shrubs, and have a bushy jaw and strong chewing muscles.
Not much is known about New Guinea’s animal life outside the island, despite its distinct color and character. This discovery gives new life to the exploration of the animal history of New Guinea.
Few Australians know what is in Papua New Guinea
“New Guinea’s wildlife is fascinating, but very few Australians actually know what’s out there,” says Isaac Kerr, a PhD student in palaeontology at Flinders.
“There are several species of large, long-nosed, worm-eating urchin that still live today; many different species of pygmy kangaroos and opossums that we don’t find in Australia; and many more that are in the fossil record,” Kerr added.
“We think these animals are Australian, but they have another interesting life in New Guinea,” he said.
A descendant of a species that lived millions of years ago
Using 3D imaging and other techniques, the researchers studied the remains of the Papua New Guinea Museum and Art Gallery. They now believe that this species may have evolved from an ancient form of kangaroo that spread to New Guinea in the late Miocene, about 5-8 million years ago.
At that time, the islands of New Guinea and mainland Australia were connected by a “land bridge” due to the low sea level, and the flooded Torres Strait did not separate them as they are today. This “bridge” allowed early Australian mammals, including various extinct giant forms, to move through the rainforests of New Guinea.
When the Torres Strait flooded again, these groups of animals separated from their Australian relatives, and thus evolved separately, to adapt to their tropical and mountainous habitat in Papua New Guinea.
numbe, This ancient kangaroo from Papua New Guinea is now considered a descendant of those kangaroos.
Research that sheds light on this ancient kangaroo in Papua New Guinea will expand
American and Australian researchers did sporadic paleontological work there in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, many of which led to fascinating discoveries of extinct megafauna. However, there have been no fossil finds since the early 1990s, a situation researchers at Flinders University are trying to remedy.
Co-author of a new article, published in Transactions of the Royal Society of South AustraliaProfessor Gavin Prideaux of Flinders University says the research will be expanded with a grant from the Australia Pacific Science Foundation.
“We are very excited to be doing three excavations in two different locations in eastern and central Papua New Guinea over the next three years,” he says.
“We will be working with the curators of the Papua New Guinea Museum and Art Gallery and other contacts in Papua New Guinea, with whom we hope to develop some local interest in palaeontology here,” Prideaux concluded.
We recommend you to read:
What could have launched the Ice Age? A new study could have solved a long-standing mystery
What did megalodon eat? Whatever he wants, including other predators
The mysterious troubadour in Romania. The story of living rocks that grow and move
A fossilized egg inside another petrified egg, the premiere of dinosaurs and reptiles