A tammar wallaby is a small- or mid-sized macropod found in Australia and New Guinea. They belong to the same taxonomic family as kangaroos. One of them, Mathilda, became the first kangaroo to have her genetic code mapped.
The Australian researchers were shocked when they compared her code with a human’s. They had expected the comparison to be a mismatch, but it turned out that the genomes of the two species were more than just similar. Apart from a few differences, the genes were identical, and many of them were arranged in the same order. Both species hold large pieces of genetic information about the other.
It made more sense when the researchers also discovered that people and these bouncy marsupials had a common ancestor that lived at least 150 million years ago. Mice separated from humans only 70 million years ago, but scientists feel that kangaroos can provide more answers about human evolution when it comes to why some DNA remained the same for eons while other DNA changed. By comparing different genomes from species, unknown genes can be identified, and Matilda revealed 14 new genes never before seen in kangaroos, which might possibly also be present in humans.