Tiny Kangaroo Species that Lived Millions of Years Ago Couldn't Hop

First Posted: Feb 23, 2016 10:41 AM EST

Scientists have discovered a new genus and two new species of extinct kangaroos that couldn't do what their contemporaries can: hop. However, the new species may have actually been ancestral to all kangaroos and wallabies living today.

The two new species within the genes are Cookeroo bulwidarri, which lived about 23 million years ago, and Cookeroo hortusensis, which lived about 20 to 18 million years ago. These new species may have been better adapted than their fanged cousins to the environmental change from rainforest to more open forest and woodland environments.

"They lived around 15 to 23 million years ago and were the size of very small wallabies or pademelons," said Kaylene Butler, one of the researchers, in a news release. "They moved on all fours, scurrying across a densely forested landscape quite different from the dry outback we see in western Queensland today. It also appears that our new species were direct competitors with a second group of kangaroos at Riversleigh, the even weirder 'balbarid' or fanged kangaroos. It seems likely that the fanged cousins were out-competed by our new species and their descendants."

The findings reveal a bit more about these ancient species of kangaroos, and show that while other kangaroos died off, these survived and eventually created the line of hopping kangaroos that we see today.

The findings are published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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