Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ancient Kangaroo Teeth Reveal Australia’s Tropical Past


The fossilized teeth of ancient marsupials that roamed through northeastern Australia roughly 2.5 million years ago suggest these animals fed on leafy plants in a much more lush and tropical environment than was previously thought, according to a new study.

A chemical analysis of tooth enamel from extinct marsupials in Queensland, the second-largest state in Australia, revealed clues about the diet and habits of these ancient mammals. The findings indicate that this region of Australia, which today is made up mostly of arid grasslands, was once covered in tropical forests, said Shaena Montanari, a comparative biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and lead author of the new study.

"It was probably a wetter and moister environment," Montanari told LiveScience. "Marsupials have been around in Australia for tens of millions of years, but these fossils help us understand how their diets changed with the environments." [Marsupial Gallery: A Pouchful of Cute]

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