Paleontologists Have Traced the Origin of Kangaroo

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The appearance of the ancestors of modern kangaroos associated with global climate change and the spread of grassland three million years ago.

Today kangaroos are the most numerous and diverse group of herbivorous marsupial mammals. Their appearance is connected with changes in Australian climate and the spread of the continent’s dry grassy plains, which lasted between 12 and five million years ago. It is believed that this process was slow and gradual and only one-two million years ago in Australia there was a real kangaroo, specializing on feeding on hard grass. This is significantly later than the grass-eaters of other continents, which appeared a few million years earlier. However, the authors of a new article published in the journal Science, casts doubt on this hypothesis. Based on their data, the appearance of a kangaroo happened much earlier and faster than previously thought.

Professor of paleontology from Australian Flinders University Gavin Prideaux (Gavin Prideaux) investigated the anatomy of the dental system in modern kangaroos and their relatives — both living and extinct, is dated up to 25 million years. The structure of the teeth allows you to specify the usual diet of herbivorous animal and find out what is its main source of food is a relatively soft foliage or tougher grass. And indeed, the work showed that the ancestors of today’s kangaroos moved on to eating grass rather quickly — about three million years ago.

During this period, the Earth went through another cycle of global warming and reduce forest cover. Presumably, it is during the Pliocene epoch stimulated our ancestors to master open spaces of the Savannah. Affected by the changes, and kangaroo, among which appeared and began to spread quickly species adapted to eating grasses and became the ancestors of modern Australian animals. In contrast, other groups kangaroo faithful to the deciduous diet, over time, turned out to be at a disadvantage and become extinct.