Roger the ripped kangaroo became famous for his physique. Picture: The Kangaroo Sanctuary, Alice Springs
Roger the ripped kangaroo became famous for his physique. Picture: The Kangaroo Sanctuary, Alice Springs

Proof 2.5m kangaroo roamed Australia

Deep in the forests of tropical northern Australia, palaeontologists have discovered the remains of what they say is the biggest kangaroo to walk the earth.

Standing at an incredible 2.5m tall and weighing roughly 274kg, the massive roo was discovered near at least 16 species of megafauna in the South Walker Creek near Mackay.

Scott Hocknull, palaeontologist with the Queensland Museum and honorary faculty member at the University of Melbourne, said his team also uncovered the remains of a 7m long crocodile in the region.

"While the rest of the world had giant carnivores like sabre-toothed cats, bears and hyenas, Australia's predators were mostly giant reptiles, including an extinct freshwater croc around seven meters long, a relation to the modern salt water crocodile, and a land-dwelling crocodile," he says.

The remains of the giant animals were discovered near Mackay. Picture: Queensland Museum Network/AAP
The remains of the giant animals were discovered near Mackay. Picture: Queensland Museum Network/AAP

"There were also two giant lizards including a six-meter-long lizard called Megalania and another giant lizard, similar in size to the Komodo dragon."

He said the massive animals died out likely around 40,000 years ago, after humans stepped foot on the continent.

However, he said there was no evidence to suggest their extinction was the fault of humans.

Rather, he said it was likely due to major changes in the region's climate and environment, including increased fire, reduction in grasslands and loss of freshwater.

"Together, these sustained changes were simply too much for the largest of Australia's animals to cope with," he said.

The South Walker Creek site was the stomping ground for a diverse range of megafauna including several new species, which are yet to be formally described.

"The megafauna at South Walker Creek were uniquely tropical, dominated by huge reptilian carnivores and mega-herbivores that went extinct around 40,000 years ago, well after humans arrived onto mainland Australia," Dr Hocknull said.

"We cannot place humans at this 40,000-year-old crime scene, we have no firm evidence. Therefore, we find no role for humans in the extinction of these species of megafauna."

Dr Scott Hocknull says humans cannot be blamed for the extinction of the megafauna. Picture: Peter Wallis
Dr Scott Hocknull says humans cannot be blamed for the extinction of the megafauna. Picture: Peter Wallis

The discoveries are the result of more than a decade of work.

In 2008, the first remains of the animals were uncovered by the Barada Barn during a cultural heritage clearance at the South Walker Creek site, which BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal operates.

Since then there has been a systematic excavation since 2008 that has revealed spectacular megafauna fossils ranging from minute fish scales to colossal limb bones.

"The Board of Directors from the Barada Barna Aboriginal Corporation are extremely excited that we have found the megafauna within our traditional country," says a Barada Barna Aboriginal Corporation spokesman.

"The Barada Barna people have an immensely proud history dating back to our first encounters with Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845 on the banks of Cherwell Creek and having discovered megafauna only enriches our history within this region.

"The team that discovered these finds back in 2008 had no idea of how great a discovery it was, with the help of Queensland Museum we have discovered more and more animals from that time."

 

Originally published as Proof 2.5m kangaroo roamed Australia


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