Australian killer kangaroo and demon duck fossils discovered

This is a video about Australia, 23.5 million years ago.

From ABC in Australia:

July 12, 2006

Fossil dig uncovers ‘killer’ kangaroos

By Melanie Christiansen for The World Today

A group of paleontologists say weird flesh-eating, galloping kangaroos once inhabited parts of Australia.

The team from the University of New South Wales says its latest dig at the Riversleigh fossil fields in north-west Queensland has uncovered new evidence of the ancient kangaroo, along with a creature they describe as the “demon duck of doom“.

The team says the two-week expedition has found fossilised remains from at least 20 previously unknown species.

Professor Mike Archer, the Dean of Science at the University of New South Wales, says the kangaroo lived in the Riversleigh region somewhere between 10 million and 20 million years ago.

He says marsupials would not look like anything we recognise today.

“Because they didn’t hop, these were galloping kangaroo, with big powerful forelimbs, some of them had long canines like wolves,” he said.

“You could have been looking for Skippy but you would not have seen Skippy, you might have found his ancestor, who ended up eating you while you looked for the normal kangaroo.”

Also on the dig was Dr Sue Hand, a vertebrate paleontologist who has given the flesh-eating kangaroos her own description.

“This group of animals we affectionately call killer kangaroos; well muscled in teeth, not for grazing, these things had slicing crests that could have crunched through bone and sliced off flesh,” she said.

‘Demon duck’

Dr Hand says the latest fossil discoveries show that the killer kangaroos were not the only frightening creature around 10 million years ago.

“Very big bird … more like ducks, earned the name demon ducks of doom, some at least may have been carnivorous as well,” she said.

The team will now begin a detailed study of the fossils they have brought back to learn as much as they can about the previously unknown species, and how they were affected by changing climates.

Dr Hand says it is fascinating work.

“It is a wonderful time to be a paleontogolist [sic] in Australia, wonderful time to be working on these great deposits.”

Australia: Simpson desert marsupial mole: here.

New mountain brushtail opossum species discovered: here.

Australian Pleistocene megafauna: here.

How did Australian megafauna become extinct? See here.

Fossil is grandfather of kangaroo family: here.

Kangaroo evolution: here.

Descriptions and phylogenetic relationships of two new genera and four new species of Oligo-Miocene waterfowl (Aves: Anatidae) from Australia: here.

7 thoughts on “Australian killer kangaroo and demon duck fossils discovered

  1. Giant lions and kangaroos once roamed Australia
    Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:22pm ET138

    By Rob Taylor

    CANBERRA (Reuters) – Marsupial lions, kangaroos as tall as trucks and wombats the size of a rhinoceros roamed Australia’s outback before being killed off by fires lit by arriving humans, scientists said on Thursday.

    The giant animals lived in the arid Nullarbor Desert around 400,000 years ago, but died out around 50,000 years ago, relatively shortly after the arrival of human settlers, according to new fossil skeletons found in caves.

    Fossilized remains were uncovered almost intact in a series of three deep caves in the center of the Nullarbor desert — east of the west coast city of Perth — in October 2002. “Three subsequent expeditions produced hundreds of fossils so well-preserved that they constitute a veritable “Rosetta Stone for Ice-Age Australia”, expedition leader Gavin Prideaux said of the find, detailed in the latest edition of the journal Nature.

    The team discovered 69 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including eight new species of kangaroo, some standing up to 3 meters (9 feet) tall.

    Protected from wind and rain, and undisturbed due to their remote location, the remains of the mega-beasts are in near-perfect condition, including the first-ever complete skeleton of a marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex.

    “Unwary animals bounding around in the case of kangaroos, or running around in the case of marsupial lions and wombats, fell down these holes, as presumably most were nocturnal. It’s very difficult to see a small opening on a flat surface at night,” Prideaux said.

    Research into the fossils challenges recent claims that Australia’s megafauna were killed off by climate change, pointing the finger instead at fires, probably lit by the first human settlers who transformed the fragile landscape.

    The lands inhabited by the megafauna once supported flowers, tall trees and shrubs. But isotopes extracted from skeletal enamels show the climate was hot and arid, similar to today.

    The plants, the scientists said, were highly sensitive to so-called fire-stick farming, where lands were deliberately cleared by fires to encourage re-growth.

    “Australian megafauna could take all that nature could throw at them for half-a-million years, without succumbing,” said Richard Roberts, a geochronologist at the University of Wollongong. “It was only when people arrived that they vanished.”


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