Kangaroos may seem cuddly and cute, but make no mistake those guys will beat you up. Case in point, researchers have discovered a now extinct species of kangaroo that was so jacked it could climb trees.
Tree climbing kangaroo
Researchers from Murdoch and Flinders University have discovered fossils of an extinct kangaroo that had evolved to climb trees. The creature used powerful strength in its forelimbs and hindlimbs along with its grasping hands and strongly curved claws to scale them.
“The specimens we analysed – including several cranial and two near-complete skeletons – suggests this kangaroo species would climb and ‘move slowly’ through trees,” Dr Natalie Warburton said in a press release.
“These fossils have unusually long fingers and toes with long, curved-claws, in comparison to other kangaroos and wallabies, for gripping; powerful arm muscles to raise and hold themselves up in trees, and a longer, more mobile neck than other kangaroos that would be useful for reaching out the head in different directions for browsing on leaves.”
This evolution would’ve allowed the kangaroo to access plant material that wasn’t available to other ground animals. Researchers also found that this species differs from others thanks to an additional pocket in its nose.
The discovery gives a whole new insight into the evolution of our furry friends, including that there were once multiple species that could climb trees.
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This kangaroo species also sheds some light on the changing geography of Australian landscapes.
“This is really interesting, not just from the point of view of unexpected tree-climbing behaviour in a large wallaby, but also as these specimens come from an area that is now bare of trees, and so tells us that the habitat and environment in the area were really different to what they are now, and perhaps different to what we might have previously interpreted for that time,” Dr Warburton said.
These skeletons were found back in 2002 and 2003 on the Nullarbor Plain Thylacoleo Cave and Mammoth Cave in Western Australia. The area is now an arid plain with hardly any trees. Not really ideal for tree-climbing kangaroos.
“This is unexpected and exciting and it provides us with new information as we try to understand the changing environments of Australia through time.”
You can check out images of the kangaroo fossils here.