Australian Marsupials Linked to Americas

MUENSTER, Germany, July 27 (UPI) — Australian marsupials — including koalas, kangaroos and wombats — have a common ancestor, scientists say, and it was American.

Researchers at the University of Muenster used DNA to draw up a marsupial family tree and suggest a single ancestral marsupial species moved from the Americas to Australia, BBC News reported Tuesday.

Marsupials, animals that carry their young in a pouch after birth, are found in Australia, North and South America, and in Asian countries including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

The DNA evidence suggests marsupials arrived in Australia 30 million to 40 million years ago, researchers say.

“I think this is pretty strong evidence now for the hypothesis of a single migration (to Australia) and a common ancestor,” Juergen Schmitz, one of the research team, said.

The earliest identified species of marsupial is known from 125-million-year-old fossils found in China.

Subsequently the family — or perhaps a single species — moved across the super-continent of Gondwana into the Americas.

The marsupial family began expanding about 70 million to 80 million years ago, the researchers say.

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