Ancient Kangaroo Fossils Reveal How They Got Their Hop

The vestiges are 20 million years old.

Researchers believe they found fossils of an ancient kangaroo relative. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
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New fossils discovered in Australia have revealed that a long-extinct kangaroo species not only hopped but walked on all fours, and also climbed trees.

These creatures, known as balbarids, are said to have been able to rule the entire continent.

“The long held idea is that the kangaroo hop evolved in response to climate change, with the spread of arid grasslands opening up new habitats that selected for high speed hopping gaits,” Dr Benjamin Kear, a palaeontologist at Uppsala University told The Independent.

Ancient bones belonging to old kangaroo relatives are hard to come by, so this discovery is challenging ideas about the kangaroo hop.

Scientists believe the creatures “appear to have evolved a versatile anatomy to scramble around their forest environment,” The Independent reports. The balbarids needed to be able to hop from branch to branch.

However, as forests shrunk the kangaroo’s ancestor was driven to extinction, but not before passing down that hoppity hop.

“The ancestors of modern kangaroos used the same suite of locomotory morphologies to exploit newly emerging open habitats, and thus gave rise to one of the most successful mammal radiations on the Australian landmass today,” Dr Kear said.

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