Three New Species of Extinct Giant Kangaroos Discovered in Australia

Researchers discover 3 new species of giant ancient kangaroos, some standing over 6.6 feet tall and weighing up to 375 pounds, shedding light on Australia's diverse extinct fauna.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Three New Species of Extinct Giant Kangaroos Discovered in Australia

Three New Species of Extinct Giant Kangaroos Discovered in Australia

Researchers from Flinders University in South Australia have made a groundbreaking discovery of three new species of ancient giant kangaroos that roamed the continent between 5 million and 40,000 years ago. The largest of these extinct marsupials, Protemnodon viator, stood over 6.6 feet tall and weighed up to 375 pounds, nearly twice the size of modern-day kangaroos.

The other two newly identified species, Protemnodon mamkurra and Protemnodon dawsonae, also exhibited unique adaptations such as quadrupedal movement and mid-speed hopping. These extinct kangaroos were more muscular and stoutly built compared to their modern counterparts, allowing them to thrive in diverse environments across Australia and neighboring regions.

The research team, led by paleontologist Dr. Gavin Prideaux, analyzed over 800 kangaroo fossils from collections in Australia, the United Kingdom, United States, and Papua New Guinea. By taking meticulous measurements and comparing the specimens, they were able to identify and describe the three new species within the Protemnodon genus.

Despite their successful adaptations, the entire Protemnodon genus became extinct on mainland Australia around 40,000 years ago. The exact reasons for their extinction remain unclear, but researchers believe it was not solely due to hunting by Aboriginal people or major climate-related disasters.

Why this matters: The discovery of these extinct giant kangaroo species sheds light on the diversity and adaptability of ancient Australian fauna. It also raises questions about the factors that led to their extinction while smaller kangaroo species survived, providing insights into the complex dynamics of past ecosystems.

Dr. Prideaux and his team hope to gain further insights into the extinction of these ancient giant kangaroos through continued paleontological investigations. They plan to conduct the first dig in Papua New Guinea in over 40 years to search for more fossil evidence. "This study provides a more comprehensive database of Protemnodon species, which can help with further fossil identification and research," stated Dr. Prideaux.

Key Takeaways

  • Researchers discovered 3 new species of ancient giant kangaroos in Australia.
  • The largest species, Protemnodon viator, stood over 6.6 feet tall and weighed up to 375 lbs.
  • The extinct kangaroos had unique adaptations like quadrupedal movement and mid-speed hopping.
  • The Protemnodon genus became extinct on mainland Australia around 40,000 years ago.
  • Researchers plan to conduct a dig in Papua New Guinea to find more fossil evidence.