Ancient kangaroo fossil of 20 million years old, found in Australia, shed more light on the origins of marsupial hop. The fossils belong to a long-extinct species of kangaroo which hopped, jumped using its all four legs, and even climbed. This ancient kangaroo species, known as balbarids, helped modern-day scientists understand how these marsupials spread across an entire continent.
“The long-held idea is that the kangaroo hop evolved in response to climate change, with the spread of arid grasslands opening up new habitats that selected for high speed hopping gaits,” said Dr. Benjamin Kear, a paleontologist at Uppsala University, for The Independent.
Many other animals use hopping to move around. However, the kangaroos evolved in this way, so they present the most efficient hopping as a method of locomotion among all animals. The researchers, to find out how balbarids – an ancient kangaroo species- moved around, studied the few fossils they unearthed.
Ancient Kangaroo Fossil Shed More Light On The Origins Of Marsupial Hop
After analyzing the ancient kangaroo fossil, the scientists established that the remnants belonged to a species known as Nambaroo gillespieae. They compared the characteristics of that ancient species with those of the modern-day kangaroos. The outcome of the study contradicts the widely-accepted theory that the kangaroos began hopping as a locomotion method in the arid areas of Australia.
According to the ancient kangaroo fossil unearthed in Australia, balbarids, a primitive species of kangaroos, hopped. However, they also adopted other elements to adapt to forest environments.
“The iconic kangaroo body plan is therefore extremely adaptable and was probably a key to their success over the last 20 million years or more. On the other hand, the ancestors of modern kangaroos used the same suite of locomotory morphologies to exploit newly emerging open habitats, and thus gave rise to one of the most successful mammal radiations on the Australian landmass today,” Dr. Kear concluded.
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