Research

What did the kangaroos that inhabited Australia look like thousands of years ago?

I remember in an article about the biggest bird instories we wrote that all animals existing today are smaller copies of prehistoric giants. The kangaroos that inhabit modern Australia are no exception and they also have ancient ancestors whose body weight exceeded 200 kilograms. Recently, Australian scientists created a computer model of the skull of one of the ancestors of modern kangaroos and found out what they ate and what other modern animals looked like.

Modern kangaroos had giant ancestors

The interest of scientists caused the skull of an ancient kangaroo speciesSimosthenurus occidentalis, which died out about 42 thousand years ago. Modern marsupial inhabitants of Australia weigh on average about 90 kilograms, but the weight of their ancient relative was about 118 kilograms. From encyclopedias and documentaries, we all know from childhood that kangaroos have an elongated face. However, thousands of years ago, the muzzle of their ancestors was quite short, and the jaw made it possible to chew solid food like mature leaves and branches.

Kangaroo skull of the species Simosthenurus occidentalis

Which animals have the strongest jaw?

By creating a computer model of the skull of an ancientKangaroo, scientists came to the conclusion that only pandas and koalas have such a strong jaw today. The bones on the top of the skull formed an arch that prevented the strong jaw muscles from twisting. Muscles, in turn, protected the jaw from dislocation while chewing solid food.

Reconstruction of an extinct kangaroo species

According to researchers, ancient marsupialsacquired a powerful jaw and began to eat solid food in order to survive. The fact is that during the course of history many animals had to literally fight for food because of its lack. While everyone else fought for soft vegetation, kangaroos could calmly feed on hard leaves and coarse branches that were of no interest to anyone. Over time, food shortages disappeared, so their descendants today have got elongated snouts and eat grasses, flowers and moss.

The size of the ancient creatures is impressive, but what do you think of them? Share your impressions in our Telegram chat.

What animals live in Australia?

However, some scientists do not want to namemodern kangaroos are direct descendants of Simosthenurus occidentalis. Tiny marsupial mammals, known as the striped wallaby hares, have more in common with the ancient giants. Today they live only on two islands of the western coast of Australia, where there are no predatory animals. How they look is shown in the video below.

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It is worth noting that recreated on a computerthe ancient kangaroo is not the largest of its kind. Millions of years ago, larger representatives of the kangaroo family lived in Australia. Take, for example, the species Procoptodon goliah, some of which weighed more than 244 kilograms. After this fact, probably, no one had any doubts that in prehistoric times real giants lived on our planet.

An ancient species of kangaroo species Procoptodon goliah

If you still have doubts, then on my own behalfI recommend reading our article about the huge parrots that lived about 20 million years ago in the Miocene era. The growth of these birds was about 1 meter, and the weight reached 7 kilograms.