Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 141–167 | Cite as

Sexually Dimorphic Bandicoots (Marsupialia: Peramelemorphia) From the Oligo-Miocene of Australia, First Cranial Ontogeny for Fossil Bandicoots and New Species Descriptions

  • Kenny J. TravouillonEmail author
  • Michael Archer
  • Suzanne J. Hand
  • Jeanette Muirhead
Original Paper


Peramelemorphians (bandicoots and bilbies) are unique among mammals in having the shortest gestation period. Very little is known about their evolutionary history primarily because until recently their fossil record was scarce. Here we describe two new species, Madju variae, gen. et sp. nov., from late Oligocene to middle Miocene deposits from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, Queensland, and the Kutjamarpu Local Fauna, South Australia, and Madju encorensis, gen. et sp. nov., also from Riversleigh WHA but from the late middle to early late Miocene. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that they are best regarded as basal members of the Superfamily Perameloidea. Species of Madju are unusual in showing a distinct reduction in size through time, possibly reflecting environmental change from the early to late Miocene. Madju variae is the first-known sexually dimorphic fossil peramelemorphian. The preservation and representation of specimens of M. variae is exceptional, enabling documentation of ontogenetic development from juvenile to old adult stage suggesting that juveniles of M. variae developed more slowly than their modern counterparts and that lactation lasted for a longer time. If so, the short gestation of modern peramelemorphians would appear to be a specialisation that might have evolved sometime after the middle Miocene.


Fossil bandicoots Sexual dimorphism Cranial ontogeny Riversleigh World Heritage Area Kutjamarpu Local Fauna 



Support for research at Riversleigh has come from the Australian Research Council (LP0989969, LP100200486, DP1094569 & DP130100197 grants to M. Archer and S.J. Hand at the University of New South Wales); XSTRATA Community Partnership Program (North Queensland); the University of New South Wales; P. Creaser and the CREATE Fund; the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service; Environment Australia; the Queensland Museum; the Riversleigh Society Inc.; Outback at Isa; Mount Isa City Council; private supporters including K. & M. Pettit, E. Clark, M. Beavis, and M. Dickson; and the Waanyi people of northwestern Queensland. Assistance in the field has come from many hundreds of volunteers as well as staff and postgraduate students of the University of New South Wales. We thank R. Day for providing funding to the University of Queensland to create a postdoctoral position for K. J. Travouillon. We thank S. Ingleby and A. Divljan from the Australian Museum, H. Janetzki from the Queensland Museum, and C. Stevenson from the Western Australian Museum for providing access to modern bandicoot specimens. We thank the UNSW Palaeosciences Lab and the UQ Palaeo Hub for their support and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

Supplementary material

10914_2014_9271_MOESM1_ESM.doc (140 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 140 kb)
10914_2014_9271_MOESM2_ESM.doc (271 kb)
ESM 2 (DOC 271 kb)
10914_2014_9271_MOESM3_ESM.doc (44 kb)
ESM 3 (DOC 44 kb)
10914_2014_9271_MOESM4_ESM.doc (60 kb)
ESM 4 (DOC 60 kb)
10914_2014_9271_MOESM5_ESM.doc (60 kb)
ESM 5 (DOC 60 kb)
10914_2014_9271_MOESM6_ESM.doc (36 kb)
ESM 6 (DOC 36 kb)


  1. Aplin KP, Archer M (1987) Recent advances in marsupial systematics with a new syncretic classification. In: Archer M (ed) Possums and Opossums: Studies in Evolution, Volume 1. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney, pp xv-lxxiiGoogle Scholar
  2. Aplin KP, Helgen KM, Lunde DP (2010) A review of Peroryctes broadbenti, the giant bandicoot of Papua New Guinea. Am Mus Novitates 3696:1–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Archer M (1976) The dasyurid dentition and its relationships to that of didelphids, thylacinids and borhyaenids. Australian J Zool, Suppl Ser 39:1–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Archer M, Arena DA, Bassarova M, Beck RMD, Black K, Boles WE, Brewer P, Cooke BN, Crosby K, Gillespie A, Godthelp H, Hand SJ, Kear BJ, Louys J, Morrell A, Muirhead J, Roberts KK, Scanlon JD, Travouillon KJ, Wroe S (2006) Current status of species-level representation in faunas from selected fossil localities in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland. Alcheringa Spec Iss 1:1–17Google Scholar
  5. Archer M, Hand SJ, Godhelp H (1994) Patterns in the history of Australia's mammals and inferences about palaeohabitats. In: Hill R (ed) History of the Australian Vegetation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 80–103Google Scholar
  6. Archer M, Hand SJ, Godhelp H (1995) Tertiary environmental and biotic change in Australia. In: Vrba ES, Denton GH, Partridge TC, Burckle LH (ed) Paleoclimate and Evolution, with Emphasis on Human Origins. Yale University Press, New Haven, pp 77–90Google Scholar
  7. Archer M, Hand SJ, Godthelp H, Creaser P (1997) Correlation of the Cainozoic sediments of the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil property, Queensland, Australia. In: Aguilar J-P, Legendre S, Michaux J (ed) Actes du congrès BiochroM'97, Mémoires et Travaux de l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes,Institut de Montpellier 21:131–152Google Scholar
  8. Arena DA (2004) The geological history and development of the terrain at the Riversleigh World Heritage Area during the middle Tertiary. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  9. Beck RMD (2008) A dated phylogeny of marsupials using a molecular supermatrix and multiple fossil constraints. J Mammal 89(1):175–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beck RMD, Godhelp H, Weisbecker V, Archer M, Hand SJ (2008) Australia's oldest marsupial fossils and their biogeographical implications. PloS ONE 3(3):e1858CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Black KH, Archer M, Hand SJ, Godthelp H (2010) First comprehensive analysis of cranial ontogeny in a fossil marsupial—from a 15-million-year-old cave deposit in northern Australia. J Vertebr Paleontol 30(4):993–1011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Black KH, Archer M, Hand SJ, Godthelp H (2013a) Revision in the diprotodontid marsupial genus Neohelos: systematics and biostratigraphy. Acta Palaeontol Polonica 58(4):679–706Google Scholar
  13. Black KH, Louys J, Price GJ (2013b) Understanding morphological variation in the extant koala as a framework for identification of species boundaries in extinct koalas (Phascolarctidae; Marsupialia). J Syst Palaeontol doi:DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2013.768304
  14. Brammall J, Archer M (1997) A new Oligocene-Miocene species of Burramys (Marsupialia. Burramyidae) from Riversleigh. northwestern Queensland. Mem Queensland Mus 41(2):247–268Google Scholar
  15. Flannery T (1995) Mammals of New Guinea. Reed Books, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  16. Flores DA, Abdala F, Giannini NP (2013) Post-weaning cranial ontogeny in two bandicoots (Mammalia, Peramelemorphia, Peramelidae) and comparison with carnivorous marsupials. J Zool 116:372–384 doi: 10.1016/j.zool.2013.07.003
  17. Gillespie AK (2007) Diversity and systematics of marsupial lions from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area and the evolution of the Thylacoleonidae. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  18. Godthelp H, Archer M, Hand SJ, Plane MD (1989) New potoroine from Tertiary Kangaroo Well Local Fauna, N.T. and description of upper dentition of potoroine Wakiewakie lawsoni from Upper Site Local Fauna, Riversleigh. In: 5th Conference on Australian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeontology and Systematics, Abstracts, Sydney. University of New South Wales, p 6Google Scholar
  19. Gordon G, Hulbert AJ (1989) Peramelidae. In: Walton DW (ed) Fauna of Australia vol Vol. 1B: Mammalia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, pp 603–624Google Scholar
  20. Gurovich Y, Travouillon KJ, Beck RMD, Muirhead J, Archer M (2013) Biogeographical implications of a new mouse-sized fossil bandicoot (Marsupialia: Peramelemorphia) occupying a dasyurid-like ecological niche across Australia. J Syst Palaeontol doi: 10.1080/14772019.2013.776646 Google Scholar
  21. Johnson C, Johnson KA (1983) Behaviour of the Bilby, Macrotis lagotis (Reid) in captivity. Australian Wildl Res 10:77–87Google Scholar
  22. Johnson KA (1989) Thylacomyidae. In: Walton DWE (ed) Fauna of Australia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, pp 625–635Google Scholar
  23. Kingsmill E (1962) An investigation of criteria for estimating age in the marsupials Trichosurus vulpecula Kerr and Perameles nasuta Geoffroy. Australian J Zool 10:597–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lewis PO (2001) A likelihood approach to inferring phylogeny from discrete morphological characters. Syst Biol 50:913–925CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Louys J, Black K, Archer M, Hand SJ, Godhelp H (2007) Descriptions of koala fossils from the Miocene of Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland and implications for Litokoala (Marsupialia, Phascolarctidae). Alcheringa 31:99–110Google Scholar
  26. Luckett WP (1993) An ontogenetic assessment of dental homologies in therian mammals. In: Szalay FS, Novacek MJ, McKenna MC (eds) Mammal Phylogeny: Mesozoic Differentiation, Multituberculates, Monotremes, Early Eutherians and Marsupials. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp 182–204Google Scholar
  27. Lyne AG, Mort PA (1981) A comparison of skull morphology in the marsupial bandicoot genus Isoodon: its taxonomic implications and notes on a new species, Isoodon arnhemensis. Australian Mammal 4:107–133Google Scholar
  28. McCraken HE (1990) Reproduction in the Greater Bilby, Macrotis lagotis (Reid) - a comparison with other perameloids. In: Seebeck JH, Brown PR, Wallis RL, Kemper CM (eds) Bandicoots and Bilbies. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney, pp 199–204Google Scholar
  29. Megirian D, Prideaux GJ, Murray PF, Smit N (2010) An Australian land mammal age biochronological scheme. Paleobiology 36:658–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meredith RW, Westerman M, Springer MS (2008) A timescale and phylogeny for "bandicoots" (Peramelemorphia: Marsupialia) based on sequences for five nuclear genes. Mol Phylogen Evol 47:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Muirhead J (1994) Systematics, evolution and palaeobiology of recent and fossil bandicoots (Peramelemorphia, Marsupialia). Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  32. Muirhead J (2000) Yaraloidea (Marsupialia, Peramelemorphia), a new superfamily of marsupial and a description and analysis of the cranium of the Miocene Yarala burchfieldi. J Paleontol 74(3):512–523Google Scholar
  33. Muirhead J, Filan SL (1995) Yarala burchfieldi, a plesiomorphic bandicoot (Marsupialia, Peramelemorphia) from Oligo-Miocene deposits of Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland. J Paleontol 69(1):127–134Google Scholar
  34. Roberts KK, Archer M, Hand SJ, Godhelp H (2009) New Australian Oligocene to Miocene ringtail possums (Pseudocheiridae) and revision of the genus Marlu. Palaeontology 52(2):441–456Google Scholar
  35. Roberts KK, Bassarova M, Archer M (2008) Oligo-Miocene ringtail possums of the genus Paljara (Pseudocheiridae: Marsupialia) from Queensland, Australia. Geobios 41:833–844CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Simpson G, Roe A, Lewontin R (1960) Quantitative Zoology. Harcourt Brace, New York.Google Scholar
  37. Sorenson MD, Franzosa EA (2007) Treerot ver. 3.0. Department of Biology BU, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  38. Strahan R (1995) The Mammals of Australia. Reed New Holland, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  39. Swofford DL (2002) PAUP*. Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony (*and Other Methods). Version 4 (updated to 10 beta). Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MassachussetsGoogle Scholar
  40. Travouillon KJ (2008) Palaeoecological and biochronological studies of Riversleigh, World Heritage Property, Oligo-Miocene Fossil Localities, North-Western Queensland, Australia. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  41. Travouillon KJ, Beck RMD, Hand SJ, Archer M (2013b) The oldest fossil record of bandicoots (Marsupialia; Peramelemorphia) from the late Oligocene of Australia. Palaeontol Electron 16(2):13A 52pGoogle Scholar
  42. Travouillon KJ, Archer M, Hand SJ, Godthelp H (2006) Multivariate analyses of Cenozoic mammalian faunas from Riversleigh, north-western Queensland. Alcheringa Spec Iss 1:323–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Travouillon KJ, Gurovich Y, Archer M, Hand SJ, Muirhead J (2013a) The genus Galadi: three new bandicoots (Marsupialia, Peramelemorphia) from Riversleigh’s Miocene deposits, northwestern Queensland, Australia. J Vertebr Paleontol 33(1):153–168Google Scholar
  44. Travouillon KJ, Escarguel G, Legendre S, Archer M, Hand SJ (2011) The use of MSR (Minimum Sample Richness) for sample assemblage comparisons. Paleobiology 37(4):696–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Travouillon KJ, Gurovich Y, Beck RMD, Muirhead J (2010) An exceptionally well-preserved short-snouted bandicoot (Marsupialia; Peramelemorphia) from Riversleigh's Oligo-Miocene deposits, Northwestern Queensland, Australia. J Vertebr Paleontol 30(5):1528–1546Google Scholar
  46. Travouillon KJ, Legendre L, Archer M, Hand S (2009) Palaeoecological analyses of Riversleigh's Oligo-Miocene sites: implications for Oligo-Miocene climate change in Australia. Palaeogeogr, Palaeoclimatol, Palaeoecol 276(1–4):24–37Google Scholar
  47. Turnbull WD, Lundelius EL Jr, Archer M (2003) Dasyurids, perameloids, phalangeroids, and vombatoids from the early Pliocene Hamilton fauna, Victoria, Australia. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 279:513–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Voss RS, Jansa SA (2003) Phylogenetic studies on didelphid marsupials II. Nonmolecular data and new IRBP sequences: separate and combined analyses of didelphine relationships with denser taxon sampling. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 276:1–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Westerman M, Kear BP, Aplin K, Meredith RW, Emerling C, Springer MS (2012) Phylogenetic relationships of living and recently extinct bandicoots based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences. Mol Phylogen Evol 62:97–108 doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.09.009
  50. Westerman M, Krajewski C (2000) Molecular relationships of the Australian bandicoot genera Isoodon and Perameles (Marsupialia: Peramelina). Australian Mammal 22:1–8Google Scholar
  51. Westerman M, Springer MS, Dixon J, Krajewski C (1999) Molecular relationships of the extinct pig-footed bandicoot Chaeropus ecaudatus (Marsupialia: Perameloidea) using 12S rRNA sequences. J Mammal Evol 6:271–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Westerman M, Springer MS, Krajewski C (2001) Molecular relationships of the New Guinean bandicoot genera Microperoryctes and Echymipera (Marsupialia: Peramelina). J Mammal Evol 8:93–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wible JR (2003) On the cranial osteology of the short-tailed opposum Monodelphis brevicaudata (Didelphidae, Marsupialia). Ann Carnegie Mus 72(3):137–202Google Scholar
  54. Woodburne MO, MacFadden BJ, Case JA, Springer MS, Pledge N, Power JD, Woodburne J, Springer KB (1993) Land mammal biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy of the Etadunna Formation (late Oligocene) of South Australia. J Vertebr Paleontol 13:483–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Worthy TH, Tennyson AJD, Archer M, Musser AM, Hand SJ (2006) Miocene mammal reveals a Mesozoic ghost lineage on insular New Zealand, southwest Pacific. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:19419–19423CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenny J. Travouillon
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael Archer
    • 2
  • Suzanne J. Hand
    • 2
  • Jeanette Muirhead
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Earth SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations