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Kangaroos in Trees

October 18, 2018

Tree kangaroos hop up trees instead of swinging through them like monkeys.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Tree_kangaroo2 LiquidGhoul Wikipedia

Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroos inhabit the rainforests of New Guinea. (Liquid Ghoul/Wikipedia)

Kangaroos in trees. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you visit the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, you won’t see any monkeys in the trees. But if you’re lucky, you might catch sight of a tree kangaroo. Like monkeys, these adorable creatures are adapted to life in the rainforest. They’re agile climbers, and use their hind legs to hop up tree trunks.

CHRISTINE JANIS (Brown University):

But compared to a monkey, they’re really clumsy.

HIRSHON:

That’s Brown University paleontologist Christine Janis. She says if monkeys had made it to New Guinea, tree kangaroos probably wouldn’t have had a chance there. But a twist of evolutionary fate kept New Guinea monkey-free: it was once connected to Australia, and shares much of the same for flora and fauna.

JANIS:

Basically, Australia and New Guinea have only recently moved up north into the tropical zone.

HIRSHON:

Tree kangaroos and monkeys are a great example of evolutionary convergence, where unrelated animals have similar characteristics because they live in similar environments. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.