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THE EVOLUTION OF KANGAROOS

One of the developments in scientific circles of Australia in recent years is related specifically to kangaroos, national symbol and emblem of the continent! In particular, one of the most astonishing and surprising researches of Australian paleontologists figured out that these pretty animals have also experienced the power of evolution. Of course, this historical trend is acknowledged and studied in details, but crucial result of this investigation is providing factual evidences that kangaroos, as other species, have contributed to the development of animal world as well.

One of the paleontological discoveries in 1990s in Australia, particularly the full skeleton of prehistoric kangaroo, facilitated the following investigation greatly. Nambaroo (Nambaroo gillespieae) belongs to the extinct family of marsupials and is considered to be the ancestor of contemporary kangaroo species. The study of its skeleton encloses that this ancient animals were not bigger than ordinary dog of nowadays, had fangs as well as well-developed and muscular forearms.

The substantial conclusion of Australian scientists reckon: the existence of kangaroos started 25 million years ago, but they experienced some transformations due to changes in climate conditions. The analysis of revealed fossils testifies that on the early stages of their continental distribution ancient kangaroos moved on four legs, had teeth like contemporary dogs, and perhaps could even climb trees. As the basis of this research, 35 skeletons of different kangaroo species were analyzed, which included common representative, tree-kangaroo and wallaby. As the scan of teeth demonstrated, initially these animals fitted the environment with humid climate and a big amount of meadows: their diet has changed from juicy and soft grass to rigid leaves.

Speaking about their legs’ structure (fossils demonstrate the specific structure of front and hind legs, the presence of opposed to each other big toes and the flexibility of the lower limbs), nowadays it is adapted to long-distance jumps, which emphasizes the necessity of this kind of movements as climate changed. Scientists assume that such transition has occurred nearly 10-15 million years ago, when dense forests disappeared and climbing trees lost its meaning. Currently this ability is observed only among tree-kangaroos Matshi (Dendrolagus matschiei), whereas other species possess a modest ability to scramble.

Among other conclusions of scientists it is impossible not to mention the existence of kangaroo predatory species. To date researchers confirmed the distribution of at least two species: the first one possessed canines, like wolves’ ones, well adapted for tearing flesh, and even grinding bones; the second one had extended front legs destined to move in gallop, rather than to jump.

Hence, who would guess that such adorable marsupials turn out to be dangerous in early decades of their appearance in Australia? Therefore, the evolution (even if it associated with climate solely) made a great deal by bringing up completely different, lovable and endearing kangaroos, which delight an eye of everyone.

By  Maria