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Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 3–19 | Cite as

Palaeobiology of Euowenia grata (Marsupialia: Diprotodontinae) and its Presence in Northern South Australia

  • Aaron B. Camens
  • Roderick T. Wells
Original Paper

Abstract

Recovery of a specimen of Euowenia grata (De Vis, 1887) from mid Pliocene sediments of the Tirari Formation on the bank of the Warburton River in the Lake Eyre Basin provides the first recorded account of this species in South Australia. The specimen comprises a partial skull including left and right premaxillae, maxillae, and left zygomatic arch, along with an almost complete upper dentition (missing the left I2). An articulated hind leg and pes found downstream at the same stratigraphic level, as well as both fore- and hind-feet of a single individual, are also referred to E. grata and represent the first postcranial material assigned to the species. A reconstruction of the pes indicates that much more of the body weight was borne by the tarsus in this species than in plesiomorphic diprotodontids, such as Nimbadon Hand et al., 1993, or Ngapakaldia Stirton, 1967, although E. grata does not exhibit the more extreme enlargement of the tarsus seen in graviportal Pleistocene diprotodontids. E. grata is found here also to be the only known Australian marsupial, extant or extinct, to exhibit fusion of all three cuneiform bones in the tarsus. We suggest that the diprotodontine hind limb and pes had evolved graviportal adaptations in the Pliocene as well as in the Pleistocene members. We also suggest that E. grata may have been able to rear up against trees while browsing.

Keywords

Euowenia grata Diprotodontids Biomechanics Fossil marsupials Postcranial anatomy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank the many people who helped with this project. Cate Burke assisted with collection of the specimen in the field. National Geographic funded the expedition into central Australia (grant number 7031-01 to Tedford and Wells). Carey Burke prepared the fossil material collected from Camel Swamp Yard. For access to specimens we thank V. Weisbecker and K. Black (University of New South Wales), D. Megirian and P. Murray (NTMAG in Alice Springs), D. Pickering (Museum Victoria), R. Jones (Australian Museum), D. Stemmer (South Australian Museum mammal collections), N. Pledge and J. McNamara (SAM fossil collections), and numerous staff members at the Hobart Museum. We thank Rachel Norris and Anthony Wilkes (Adelaide University School of Anatomy) for use of facilities and aid in dissections. We also thank Vera Weisbecker and Karen Black for their constructive reviews of the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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