What did kangaroos look like in Australia thousands of years ago?


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I remember writing in an article about the biggest bird in history that all the animals that exist 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 how they fed and how other modern animals looked.

Modern kangaroos had huge ancestors

The scientists were interested in the skull of an ancient kangaroo species called Simosthenurus occidentalis, which was extinct about 42,000 years ago. Australia's modern marsupials weigh on average about 90 kilograms, but the weight of their old relative was about 118 kilograms. From encyclopaedias and documentaries we have all known since childhood that kangaroos have an oblong face. Thousands of years ago, however, their ancestral muzzles were rather short, and the jaw made it possible to chew solid foods such as ripe leaves and twigs.

Kangaroo skull of the species Simosthenurus occidentalis

Which animals have the strongest jaw?

After scientists created a computer model of the skull of an ancient kangaroo, they came to the conclusion that only pandas and koalas have such a strong jaw today. The bones on top of the skull formed a bow that prevented twisting of the strong jaw muscles. The muscles in turn protected the jaw from dislocation while they chewed solid food.

Reconstruction of an extinct kangaroo species

According to the researchers, the old marsupials acquired a powerful jaw and began to eat solid food to survive. The fact is that throughout history many animals literally had to fight for food because of their shortage. While everyone else fought for soft vegetation, kangaroos could feed on hard leaves and rough branches that were of no interest to anyone. Over time, food shortages disappeared, leaving their descendants elongated snouts and eating grasses, flowers and moss.

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

Which animals live in Australia?

However, some scientists do not want to call modern kangaroos direct progeny of Simosthenurus occidentalis. Small marsupial mammals, known as the striped Wallaby rabbits, have more in common with the ancient giants. Today, they only live on two islands on the west coast of Australia, where there are no predators. The video below shows how they look.

It's worth noting that the old kangaroo that was recreated on a computer is not the largest of its kind. Millions of years ago, larger members 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 doubted that prehistoric times real giants lived on our planet.

An old kangaroo-type procoptodon goliah

In case of doubt, I personally recommend reading our article about the giant parrots that lived about 20 million years ago in the Miocene. The growth of these birds was about 1 meter and the weight reached 7 kilograms.