A new family of bizarre durophagous carnivorous marsupials from Miocene deposits in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland

M. Archer, Suzanne Joan Hand, Karen H. Black, Robin M D Beck, Derrick Adam Arena, Laura Wilson, Shimona Kealy, Tzong Tyng Hung

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    A new specimen of the bizarrely specialised Malleodectes mirabilis from middle Miocene deposits in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area provides the first and only information about the molar dentition of this strange group of extinct marsupials. Apart from striking autapomorphies such as the enormous P3, other dental features such as stylar cusp D being larger than B suggest it belongs in the Order Dasyuromorphia. Phylogenetic analysis of 62 craniodental characters places Malleodectes within Dasyuromorphia albeit with weak support and without indication of specific relationships to any of the three established families (Dasyuridae, Myrmecobiidae and Thylacinidae). Accordingly we have allocated Malleodectes to the new family, Malleodectidae. Some features suggest potential links to previously named dasyuromorphians from Riversleigh (e.g., Ganbulanyi) but these are too poorly known to test this possibility. Although the original interpretation of a steeply declining molar row in Malleodectes can be rejected, it continues to seem likely that malleodectids specialised on snails but probably also consumed a wider range of prey items including small vertebrates. Whatever their actual diet, malleodectids appear to have filled a niche in Australiaâ €s rainforests that has not been occupied by any other mammal group anywhere in the world from the Miocene onwards.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    JournalScientific Reports
    Volume6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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