Fanged kangaroos disappeared millions of years ago. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Lilly M
An analysis of fossilized teeth discovered at the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in north Queensland has revealed that these wallaby-sized fanged marsupials went extinct around 10 million years ago, which is five million years later than earlier studies had suggested.
The discovery means that existing extinction theories concerning the species will now have to be thrown out because the timing of their disappearance no longer fits.
“Northern Queensland was predominantly covered in rainforest when these fanged kangaroos first appear in the fossil record,” said Univesity of Queensland PhD student Kaylene Butler.
“Every hypothesis we have about their extinction doesn’t line up with the timing of when they went extinct so we kind of have to start from scratch now.”
There are however two major events at the time of their disappearance that could help to explain it.
“You were starting to see the extension of open grasslands and open woodlands and at the same time you were also seeing potential ancestors of modern kangaroos on the scene,” said Butler.
“Potentially the answer is that the fanged kangaroo was outcompeted in food and resources.”