• Mark A. S. McMenamin
Part of the Springer Geology book series (SPRINGERGEOL)


Marsupials first appear in Cretaceous North America, their ancestors having arrived from Asia during an eastward migration of Mesozoic metatherians. By the end of the Mesozoic, the North American metatherians had developed into large (over one meter long) animals with a powerful bite force, partly a function of hypertrophied premolars (p3) in some species. The inflated premolar is associated with reappearance of zahnreihen in a Cretaceous metatherian mammal, Didelphodon coyi. The metatherian migration begun in Asia continued through North America, to South America, to Antarctica and on to Australia where marsupials underwent a well known adaptive radiation in ‘splendid isolation’. Until recently it was thought that terrestrial mammaliaforms never reached New Zealand, as New Zealand had tectonically rifted away from Antarctica at 82 million years ago, supposedly before marsupials had reached Antarctica. Recent discoveries from limited exposures of Miocene strata in New Zealand near Otago show that mammaliaforms had indeed colonized and diversified in New Zealand apart from their ancestors in the rest of the Gondwanan continental diaspora. These zealanditherians inhabited the newly characterized continent Zealandia, and were apparently driven to extinction by habitat loss when most of Zealandia was submerged by the sea.


Zealanditherians Zealandia Didelphodon Hypertrophied premolars Repenomamus Zahnreihen Thylacoleo Thylacinus Thylacosmilus Saint Bathans mammal 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark A. S. McMenamin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeographyMount Holyoke CollegeSouth HadleyUSA

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