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Meet Nombe Nombe! Giant kangaroo with a muscular body roamed Papua New Guinea 50,000 years ago

Meet Nombe Nombe! Bizarre giant kangaroo with a stocky, muscular body roamed Papua New Guinea 50,000 years ago – and was NOT closely related to Australian species

  • Scientists analyzed fossils from the Nombe Rockshelter in Papua New Guinea
  • Their analysis reveals Nombe Nombe is a new species of ancient kangaroo
  • Rather than being closely related to Australian varieties, the new species most likely belongs to a unique genus, found only in Papua New Guinea

A bizarre giant kangaroo roamed Papua New Guinea 50,000 years ago, a new study has revealed.

The species, which Flinders University researchers have called Nombe nombe, had a stocky, muscular body.

Rather than being closely related to Australian varieties, the new species most likely belongs to a unique genus, found only in Papua New Guinea, the team says.

“We think of these animals as uniquely Australian, but they have this intriguing other life in New Guinea,” said Isaac Kerr, an author of the study.

A bizarre giant kangaroo roamed Papua New Guinea 50,000 years ago, a new study has revealed.  The species, which Flinders University researchers have called Nombe nombe, had a stocky, muscular body

A bizarre giant kangaroo roamed Papua New Guinea 50,000 years ago, a new study has revealed. The species, which Flinders University researchers have called Nombe nombe, had a stocky, muscular body

How did Nombe Nombe end up in New Guinea?

The study suggests the species evolved from an ancient form of kangaroo that spread in New Guinea about 5-8 million years ago.

At the time, the islands of New Guinea and mainland Australia were connected by a land bridge, thanks to the lower sea level.

Before the bridge flooded and became the Torres Strait as it is today, early Australian mammals were able to move into New Guinea.

The giant kangaroo was first described in 1983 and is known from fossils dating back 20,000-50,000 years.

The fossils come from the Nombe Rockshelter, a site in Chimbu Province that was once a diverse rainforest with dense undergrowth and a closed canopy.

There, Nombe evolved with a thick jawbone and strong chewing muscles, which would have allowed him to eat tough leaves from trees and shrubs.

‘New Guinea’s fauna is fascinating, but very few Australians have a good idea of ​​what really is there,’ said Mr Kerr.

“There are several species of large, long-nosed, worm-eating echidnas that are still around today, many different species of wallaby and possum that we don’t get in Australia, and even more in the fossil record.”

The researchers used 3D images to study Nombe’s fossilized jaw.

Their analysis suggests that the species evolved from an ancient form of kangaroo that spread in New Guinea about 5-8 million years ago.

At the time, the islands of New Guinea and mainland Australia were connected by a land bridge, thanks to the lower sea level.

The researchers used 3D images to study Nombe's fossilized jaw.  Their analysis suggests the species evolved from an ancient form of kangaroo that spread in New Guinea about 5-8 million years ago.

The researchers used 3D images to study Nombe’s fossilized jaw. Their analysis suggests the species evolved from an ancient form of kangaroo that spread in New Guinea about 5-8 million years ago.

The fossils come from the Nombe Rockshelter, a site in Chimbu Province that was once a diverse rainforest with dense undergrowth and closed canopy

The fossils come from the Nombe Rockshelter, a site in Chimbu Province that was once a diverse rainforest with dense undergrowth and closed canopy

Before the bridge flooded and became the Torres Strait as it is today, early Australian mammals were able to move into New Guinea.

There, the animals evolved into their new, tropical home, the researchers said.

Although several studies were conducted in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to study this extinct megafauna, no excavations have taken place since the early 1990s.

The researchers are now trying to remedy this with further studies.

Professor Gavin Prideaux, co-author of the study, said: ‘We are very excited to be conducting three paleontological excavations over the next three years at two different sites in eastern and central PNG.

“We will be working with the curators of the Papua New Guinea Museum and Art Gallery and other contacts in PNG, with whom we hope to build local interest in New Guinea paleontology.”

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