Illuminating the unanticipated diversity of tree-climbing kangaroos in Australia and New Guinea in the recent geological past
A project undertaken at the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, and supervised by Dr Natalie Warburton
An ability to climb trees is known for modern tree-kangaroos (Dendrolagus) and their extinct ancestors (Bohra) (Prideaux & Warburton 2008, 2009). Study of the skeletons of several new Pleistocene (2.6–0.01 Myr ago) kangaroo species, including the enigmatic genus Congruus and “giant” rat-kangaroo Propleopus, has led to surprising observations of adaptations consistent with tree-climbing. Further, hind-limb bones from a 3.5-Myr-old site in New Guinea tentatively referred to the forest-wallaby genus Dorcopsis (Plane 1967) also preserve a number of anatomical features that bespeak an ability to climb trees. The main aim of this study is to verify whether these species were indeed built for climbing, and to synthesise our results with other lines of evidence to shed light on the hitherto-unanticipated ecological roles that these species may have filled in Australian ecosystems.
The key objectives of this study are to:
Natalie Warburton (Murdoch University, Perth) and Gavin Prideaux (Flinders University, Adelaide).