Scientists have found a brand new species of pig-footed bandicoot — an extinct Australian marsupial that appears like a kangaroo, an opossum and a deer bought a bit too pleasant on the native watering gap — and it is about as unusual as you’d hope.
Pig-footed bandicoots are long-eared, long-tailed herbivores that after scurried concerning the sandy, arid stretches of central and western Australia for tens of 1000’s of years earlier than going extinct within the 1950s. Maxing out with a physique mass of about 1.three kilos (600 grams; roughly the load of a basketball) and a size of about 10 inches (26 centimeters), these mammals are thought of to be among the many smallest grazing animals that ever lived, in accordance with the authors of a brand new research revealed March 13 within the journal Zootaxa.
With two practical toes on their entrance legs and just one on every hind leg, the bandicoots have a little bit of an assembled-by-committee look. Nevertheless, in accordance with interviews carried out with aboriginal tribe members within the 1980s, the tripod toe association didn’t hinder the little beasts from “galloping” at surprisingly excessive speeds when distressed. [Marsupial Gallery: A Pouchful of Cute]
The aboriginal interviews have been essential to researchers as there are not any pig-footed bandicoots left to review within the wild; solely 29 fossilized specimens stay on the earth’s museums. Within the new research, researchers from the Pure Historical past Museum in London and the Western Australian Museum analyzed all 29 of these specimens, taking meticulous bone measurements and evaluating DNA samples collected within the 1940s.
The outcomes confirmed that these pig-footed bandicoot fossils represented two distinct species; beforehand, researchers thought there was just one sort.
The newly described species, named Chaeropus yirratji after a neighborhood aboriginal title for the creature, has bigger hind toes and an extended tail than its better-studied cousin (Chaeropus ecaudatus), and should have had completely different grazing conduct, the researchers wrote. Future understanding of the variations between the 2 species hinges on researchers having the ability to discover extra fossils, which are typically buried in owl droppings on cave flooring.
Initially revealed on Dwell Science.