(ORDO NEWS) — Australian paleontologists have described a new species and genus of a large kangaroo that lived on the island of New Guinea 20-50 thousand years ago. This animal is not closely related to the Australian kangaroo, but belongs to a unique genus of primitive kangaroos found only in New Guinea.
The remains of a large kangaroo were first discovered in 1983 on the territory of the Nombe paleontological monument in the Chimbu province of Papua New Guinea.
The age of the fossils was about 20-50 thousand years. Paleontologists assigned the species to the extinct genus Protemnodon , which lived in Australia and New Guinea and is related to modern Australian kangaroos.
Now scientists from Flinders University (Australia) have re-examined the jaw bones and teeth of the kangaroo and assigned it to a new species, called Nombe nombe – in honor of the place where it was found.
The authors also showed that the fossil kangaroo was not a close relative of its Australian cousins, but belonged to a previously unknown genus of primitive kangaroos found only in New Guinea. The results of the study were published in the journal Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia.
Nombe nombe was squat and muscular, and its weight probably reached 40-50 kilograms. It lived in a tropical montane forest with dense undergrowth and a closed canopy, where it adapted well to feeding on the hard leaves of trees and shrubs.
This is evidenced by a thick jawbone, to which powerful chewing muscles were attached. Scientists believe that Nombe nombe could jump, but not too high.
The fauna of New Guinea, despite its originality, has been studied extremely poorly. The island is now home to several species of echidnas, many different wallabies and opossums, some of which are unique to New Guinea, and more examples of this in the fossil record.
It is customary to think of kangaroos as representatives of an exclusively Australian fauna. However, Nombe nombe was very different from them.
He probably descended from the ancient kangaroos that settled in New Guinea in the late Miocene, about five to eight million years ago.
At that time, the islands of New Guinea and Australia were connected by an isthmus. This “bridge” allowed ancient Australian mammals, including large kangaroos, to move into the forests of New Guinea.
After sea level rise, the “bridge” was flooded and the Guinean population, separated from the Australian relatives, evolved separately, adapting to the conditions of the tropical highlands.
Paleontological excavations were carried out on the territory of New Guinea only in the 1960-1980s, now scientists have resumed work. The authors of the article hope that their discovery will again draw the attention of the scientific community to this unique region.
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