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Title: Climbing adaptations, locomotory disparity and ecological convergence in ancient stem ‘kangaroos’
Contributor(s): Boer, Wendy Den (author); Campione, Nicolas E  (author)orcid ; Kear, Benjamin P (author)
Publication Date: 2019-02-06
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181617
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Abstract: Living kangaroos,wallabies and rat-kangaroos (Macropodoidea) constitute the most ecologically diverse radiation of Australasian marsupials. Indeed, even their hallmark bipedal hopping gait has been variously modified for bounding, walking and climbing. However, the origins of this locomotory adaptability are uncertain because skeletons of the most ancient macropodoids are exceptionally rare. Some of the stratigraphically oldest fossils have been attributed to Balbaridae-a clade of potentially quadrupedal stem macropodoids that became extinct during the late Miocene. Here we undertake the first assessment of balbarid locomotion using two-dimensional geometric morphometrics and a correlative multivariate analysis of linear measurements. We selected the astragalus and pedal digit IV ungual as proxies for primary gait because these elements are preserved in the only articulated balbarid skeleton, as well as some unusual early Miocene balbaridlike remains that resemble the bones of modern tree-kangaroos. Our results show that these fossils manifest character states indicative of contrasting locomotory capabilities. Furthermore, predictive modelling reveals similarities with extant macropodoids that employ either bipedal saltation and/ or climbing. We interpret this as evidence for archetypal gait versatility, which probably integrated higher-speed hopping with slower-speed quadrupedal progression and varying degrees of scansoriality as independent specializations for life in forest and woodland settings.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Royal Society Open Science, 6(2), p. 1-13
Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing
Place of Publication: United Kingdom
ISSN: 2054-5703
Field of Research (FOR): 040308 Palaeontology (incl. Palynology)
060807 Animal Structure and Function
060309 Phylogeny and Comparative Analysis
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences
970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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