The Osteology and Systematics of the Enigmatic Australian Oligo-Miocene Metatherian Yalkaparidon (Yalkaparidontidae; Yalkaparidontia; ?Australidelphia; Marsupialia)

Abstract

We provide the first detailed description of the osteology of the enigmatic Oligo-Miocene Australian metatherian Yalkaparidon. This taxon exhibits a number of unusual craniodental apomorphies but appears to be plesiomorphic within Metatheria in retaining four molars, rather than three as previously reported. We demonstrate that the only known skull of Yalkaparidon almost certainly represents a single individual. We also tentatively refer a number of isolated tarsals to the genus. Maximum parsimony analyses of a 258 character morphological matrix (with information from the tarsals described here either included or excluded) place Yalkaparidon within the superordinal clade Australidelphia, but Bayesian analyses of the same matrix are less well resolved, placing Yalkaparidon within Marsupialia but without unequivocally supporting australidelphian affinities. Bayesian analyses of a total evidence matrix that combines the morphological data with 9 kb of sequence data from five nuclear protein-coding genes (APOB, BRCA1, IRBP, RAG1 and VWF), 78 indels, and 53 retroposon insertion characters are similarly poorly resolved and do not clarify the supraordinal relationships of Yalkaparidon beyond suggesting that it is probably a member of Marsupialia. However, if the tarsal remains are correctly attributed to Yalkaparidon, then membership of Australidelphia seems likely, as these specimens exhibit characteristic australidelphian apomorphies. We conclude that the ordinal status of Yalkaparidon remains justified based on current evidence, and we present a revised diagnosis for Yalkaparidontia. We maintain the two currently recognized species, Y. coheni and Y. jonesi, but present revised specific diagnoses. We suggest a revised phylogenetic definition for Marsupialia, and provide phylogenetic definitions for Eomarsupialia (the clade comprising all extant Australian marsupial orders) and for the clade comprising Dasyuromorphia, Peramelemorphia, and Notoryctemorphia to the exclusion of Diprotodontia; we propose the name Agreodontia for the latter clade.

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Acknowledgments

Financial support for RMDB’s research on Yalkaparidon has been provided by the Leverhulme Trust (via Study Abroad Studentship SAS/30110), Phil Creaser and the CREATE fund at the University of New South Wales (via a CREATE scholarship), the National Science Foundation (via grant DEB-0743039, in collaboration with Rob Voss at the American Museum of Natural History), and the Australian Research Council (via Discovery Early Career Researcher Award DE120100957). KJT is supported by the Robert Day Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Queensland. Additional support for research at Riversleigh has come from the Australian Research Council (DP0453262, LP0453664, LP0989969, and LP100200486 grants to MA), the XSTRATA Community Partnership Program (North Queensland), the University of New South Wales, Phil Creaser and the CREATE Fund, the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, Environment Australia, the Queensland Museum, the Riversleigh Society Inc., Outback at Isa, Mount Isa City Council, and private supporters including K. and M. Pettit, E. Clark, M. Beavis, and M. Dickson. We also thank the hundreds of volunteers, staff and postgraduate students of the University of New South Wales who have assisted in field work at Riversleigh. We thank Drs Brook and Tveshor for x-raying several mandibles for us. We are grateful to the editor-in-chief John Wible and an anonymous reviewer for their thorough and constructive reviews.

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Beck, R.M.D., Travouillon, K.J., Aplin, K.P. et al. The Osteology and Systematics of the Enigmatic Australian Oligo-Miocene Metatherian Yalkaparidon (Yalkaparidontidae; Yalkaparidontia; ?Australidelphia; Marsupialia). J Mammal Evol 21, 127–172 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-013-9236-3

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Keywords

  • Yalkaparidon
  • Zalambdodont
  • Marsupialia
  • Metatheria
  • Australidelphia
  • Riversleigh