A Moment of Science

Marsupials May Not Have Originated In Australia

When you think of marsupials, like wallabies and kangaroos, you might believe them to be natives of Australia. But new evidence suggests that is unlikely.

Kangaroo jumping during sunset

Photo: Andrew (Flickr)

A new study suggests that kangaroos' ancestors probably jumped around South America before inhabiting Australia.

When you think of marsupials, like wallabies and kangaroos, you might believe them to be natives of Australia. However, a new genetic study suggests that they all may have originated in South America.

To trace the family tree, genetic data was gathered about the animals. Scientists compared two marsupial genomes of the South American opossum and the Australian tammar wallaby (a kangaroo).

Scientists looked for special genetic markers called retoposons. Retoposons help reveal how much genetic material two genomes have in common.

The results of their experiment show that all living members of the marsupial family are likely to have originated from the same branch of mammals. Why? Because their retroposon pattern resemble that of no other animal.

The results also suggest that marsupials started out from one animal in South America. This animal lived on a landmass called Gondwana, which was made up of South America, Australia and Antarctica before the three continents broke apart. This separation of continents, scientists says, would explain how the animals traveled from South America to Australia.

In the past, scientists thought that marsupials originated in Australia. However, this is complicated by a lack of fossil evidence.

Read More:

  • Marsupials Not From Down Under After All (Live Science)
  • Roo must be joking! Icon descended from common South American ancestor (Herald Sun)

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Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

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