Until near the end of the last ice age, a giant, muscular kangaroo roamed the rainforests of the mountains of New Guinea .
Paleontologists from Flinders University (Australia) have described a new species of giant fossil kangaroo from the mountains of central Papua New Guinea.
The animal, which researchers have now named ‘Nombe nombe’, had a stocky and muscular body and lived in a mountainous tropical forest rich in brush, until evolving to chew the hard leaves of trees and shrubs with its thick powered jaw by strong muscles.
The fossil was described for the first time in 1983, when the young researcher (now professor) Tim Flannery attributed it to a new species of the genus Protemnodon (which lived throughout Australia), giving it the name ‘Protemnodon nombe’, recalls Isaac Kerr, one of the authors of research, in an article in The Conversation ahead of the study’s publication in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia on Thursday. day of this week.
However, the new description of the kangaroo suggests that, rather than being closely related to Australian kangaroos, most likely belongs to a unique genus of kangaroo more primitive than it is found only in Papua New Guinea, the Flinders scientists concluded after analyzing the 3D scans of the jaws, preserved in the National Museum and Gallery of Art from Papua New Guinea.
The remains were found during an archaeological dig in the early 1970s, when two jaws of an extinct giant kangaroo were unearthed which, according to dating , lived between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago. The find was made at Nombe Rockshelter, an archaeological and paleontological site in the Chimbu province.
Now, new findings by Australian paleontologists suggest that the Nombe may have evolved from an ancient species of kangaroo that migrated to New Guinea from Australia in the late Miocene, between five million and eight million years ago.
At that time, the islands of New Guinea and Australia were connected by a land bridge due to lower sea levels, while today they are separated by the Torres Strait.
When the Torres Strait was flooded again, these animal populations became disconnected from their Australian relatives and evolved separately to adapt to the tropical and mountainous conditions of New Guinea.