Recently, Scientists have discovered tiny teeth which has helped them to identify the most distant ancestor of the present day’s kangaroos. Traces of these fossils were found in the desert heart of Australia, and were placed in the museum collection for almost three decades. The ancestry of kangaroos has always been mysterious.
During the early 1980’s a few enigmatic molar teeth were excavated by palaeontologists. They found these teeth while hunting for fossils around a dry salt lake in northern South Australia. It was only after 30 years that the modern computer-based analysis could confirm the discovery. The teeth of Palaeopotorous priscus, the very ancient rat-kangaroo, was initially described in 1986. The name Palaeopotorous was established using a single molar tooth. As a result of the research carried out by the scientists, it was revealed that Palaeopotorous was most similar to living rat-kangaroos. They further found that Palaeopotorous is not just primitive, but likely represents the most distant forerunner of all known kangaroos. Palaeopotorous was almost the size of a small rabbit, but it did not hop. The discovery of few bones on the same site in Australia is indicative of the fact that the earliest kangaroos already possess some important adaptations. The time when the Palaeopotorous existed first, central Australia was much wetter than it is in the present day. Its fossils were buried in clay deposits, but these earliest kangaroo ancestors would have foraged amongst vegetation that grows nearby and along the banks.
By: Anuja Arora