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Ancient Kangaroos Had Fangs, Climbed Trees

These ancient kangaroos were not vampires but were a far cry from the modern pocketed hip-hop creatures in Australia.

Two fossils of two new species of ancient kangaroo were discovered in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of northern Queensland. One species, Gumardee springae is estimated to be 24 million years old. The other, Gumardee richi is estimated to be between 18-20 million years old.

Site of the recent fossil find

Site of the recent fossil find

Dr. Kenny Travouillon, Curator of Mammology at the Western Australian Museum and a vertebrate palaeotologist and palaeoecologist at the University of Queensland co-authored two recent studies on the diet and movement of ancient kangaroos.

He says,

In the second study, we have found that ancient kangaroos didn’t feed on grass like most kangaroos do today, but instead some ate leaves from trees and shrubs (bowsers) while others ate a wide variety of foods (omnivore).

One of the new species (gumardee springae) was found to be predominantly a leaf eater.

We also found that some members of the ancient family of fanged-kangaroos, which was thought to be unable to hop were actually probably able to climb trees instead, while others hopped on the ground.

These ancient kangaroos climbed trees in ancient rain forests to forage and eat leaves and used their fangs, or long premolars teeth, to chew fungi. They were primarily vegetarian. These creatures only weighed between 9-13 pounds.

Newly uncovered fossils of the ancient fanged kangaroos

Newly uncovered fossils of the ancient fanged kangaroos

Travouillon adds,

Our analysis of the teeth and bones shows that these two species (Gumardee springae and Gumardae richi) are related to bettongs and polaroos, members of the Rat-kangaroo family Potoroidal.

Today, there are actually several species of Tree-kangaroos. Two species live in the rain forests of North-eastern Queensland. Ten others live in New Guinea and surrounding islands.