The fossils of the largest kangaroo in the world and a 6-meter-long lizard were some of the findings of a team of paleontologists in Australia.
In the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, a group of paleontologists reports the discovery of extinct megafauna, which lived 40,000 years ago in northern Australia. Among the findings was the fossil of the largest kangaroo in the world, 2.5 meters (8 ft) tall, and weighing 274 kilograms (604 lb).
“While the rest of the world had giant carnivores like saber-toothed cats, bears, and hyenas, Australia’s predators were mostly giant reptiles, including an extinct freshwater croc around seven meters long,” said Scott Hocknull, a paleontologist at the Queensland Museum and the University of Melbourne, in a statement. “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 added.
The researchers stress that extreme climate change was responsible for the extinction of these animals, ruling out any possible human influence. “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,” said Hocknull.
“We do find that their extinction is coincident with major climatic and environmental deterioration both locally and regionally, 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 concludes.
South Walker Creek was inhabited by a wide variety of megafauna, including several new species, which scientists have not yet formally described.