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Climbing adaptations, locomotory disparity and ecological convergence in ancient stem 'kangaroos'
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Palaeobiology. Swedish Nat Hist Museum, Dept Palaeobiol, S-10405 Stockholm, Sweden.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Palaeobiology. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Organismal Biology, Evolution and Developmental Biology. Univ New England, Palaeosci Res Ctr, Sch Environm & Rural Sci, Armidale, NSW 2531, Australia.
Uppsala University, Music and Museums, Museum of Evolution.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3128-3141
2019 (English)In: Royal Society Open Science, E-ISSN 2054-5703, Vol. 6, no 2, article id 181617Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

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 balbarid-like 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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 6, no 2, article id 181617
Keywords [en]
Macropodoidea, Balbaridae, Nambaroo, Dendrolagus, gait evolution, Miocene
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-383891DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181617ISI: 000465432900031PubMedID: 30891280OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-383891DiVA, id: diva2:1318717
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2011-3587Available from: 2019-05-28 Created: 2019-05-28 Last updated: 2019-05-28Bibliographically approved

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Den Boer, WendyCampione, Nicolás E.Kear, Benjamin P.
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