Plants and Animals

Strange but Familiar Animals

Strange but Familiar Animals

Despite being extremely peculiar and fascinating, little is known about the indigenous animal life of New Guinea outside of the island. Few Australians have any real knowledge of what is just over the strait. Early on in my PhD, I visited the Papua New Guinea Museum in Port Moresby, and I was blown away by the species I saw there. Large, long-nosed, worm-eating echidna species are still alive; one of them may weigh up to 15 kilos.

In addition, there are several species of wallaby, tree kangaroo, and possum that are extinct in Australia, as well as many more in the fossil record. Although we sometimes assume that these animals are exclusively Australian, they also exist in New Guinea in a variety of fascinating forms. It’s strange and thrilling for an Australian biologist to observe these “Aussie” critters that have evolved into novel and bizarre forms in a different environment.

Fortunately for me and my coworkers, Nombe nombe could give palaeontology in Fresh Guinea a new lease of life. We are a part of a small team of researchers that just received funding to conduct three excavations at two various locations in eastern and central Papua New Guinea over the course of the following three years. Our goal is to motivate young local biology students to pursue palaeontology studies and the discovery of new fossil species by collaborating with the curators of the Papua New Guinea Museum and other scientists. If we’re fortunate, Nombe nombe’s entire skeleton could be waiting for us. The Discussion

Ian Isaac Robert Kerr, a palaeontology PhD candidate at Flinders University. A Creative Commons license has been used to republish this article from The Conversation. A strange enormous kangaroo used to wander the steep jungles of New Guinea long ago—almost all the way up to the end of the last ice age. Now, research that my colleagues and I will publish on Thursday indicates that this kangaroo was not closely connected to contemporary Australian kangaroos. Instead, it represents a distinct species of primitive kangaroo found only in New Guinea.

The megafauna’s age, Megafauna, or enormous creatures, were formerly common in Australia before the majority of them died extinct roughly 40,000 years ago. The kangaroos, koalas, crocodiles, and other creatures that we now associate with the Australian wilderness coexisted with these megafauna, although many of them were bigger species of these.

There were three-ton Diprotodon optatums, 2.5-meter-tall short-faced kangaroos, and huge Phascolonus wombats (the largest marsupial ever). In reality, certain Australian megafaunal species still exist today, including the red kangaroo, emu, and cassowary. In comparison to Australia, New Guinea’s fossil megafauna has received far less research. Though mysterious, the fossil record from New Guinea has revealed signs of interesting and strange species whose evolutionary histories are intertwined with those of Australia.

There have been infrequent trips and fossil digs in New Guinea by palaeontologists, notably those conducted there in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s by American and Australian academics. Two jaws of an extinct gigantic kangaroo were discovered in the early 1970s during an archaeological dig directed by Mary-Jane Mountain. 

Tim Flannery, a teenage scientist who is now a professor, gave the species the name Protemnodon nombe. The fossils Flannery spoke about date back between 20,000 and 50,000 years. They originate from the Nombe Rockshelter, a palaeontological and archaeological site in central Papua New Guinea’s highlands. This location also included fossils of a different species of kangaroo and enormous four-legged marsupials known as diprotodontids.