posted on Jan, 16 2015 @ 11:31 AM
Using bones collected from a Tasmanian cave, researchers from the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA were able to extract DNA
from two extinct marsupials. The DNA was taken from the remains of two specimens: a giant short-faced kangaroo (Simosthenurus occidentalis) and a
giant wallaby (Protemnodon anak).
Left: Simosthenurus occidentalis Right: Protemnodon anak Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The skeletal remains were radiocarbon dated to about 45,000 years-old and the team credits the cool, dry conditions of the cave with preserving the
genetic material within the bones. Those hoping to see resurrected specimens of these two mega marsupials will be sorely disappointed as only short
segments of mtDNA were recovered. Those short segments were enough, however, to sequence a partial mtDNA genome which provides invaluable information
about the evolutionary relationships of marsupials.
From Science Daily
"The ancient DNA reveals that extinct giant wallabies are very close relatives of large living kangaroos, such as the red and western grey
kangaroos," says lead author Dr Bastien Llamas, ACAD senior research associate. "Their skeletons had suggested they were quite primitive macropods─a
group that includes kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons and quokkas─but now we can place giant wallaby much higher up the kangaroo family
Although ancient DNA confirms that the short-faced kangaroos left no descendants, it also shows their closest living cousin could be the
banded hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus), which is now restricted to small isolated islands off the coast of Western Australia.
So how big were these extinct species? This species of giant wallaby is thought to have tipped the scales at about 240 lb (~110 kg) and the giant
short-faced kangaroo is believed to have been twice its size at over 500 lb (~225 kg) — about three times as large as modern kangaroos! In related
news, a paper published in PLOS ONE
this past October detailed research of the anatomy of another giant kangaroo species, Procoptodon
, which indicates that unlike the extant species, the extinct giant kangaroos were walkers and not hoppers.
There are two additional sources at
edit on 2015-1-16 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)