Pliocene Paleoenvironments of Southeastern Queensland, Australia Inferred from Stable Isotopes of Marsupial Tooth Enamel

Shaena Montanari, Julien Louys, Gilbert Price

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    The Chinchilla Local Fauna is a diverse assemblage of both terrestrial and aquatic Pliocene vertebrates from the fluviatile Chinchilla Sand deposits of southeastern Queensland, Australia. It represents one of Australia's few but exceptionally rich Pliocene vertebrate localities, and as such is an important source of paleoecological data concerning Pliocene environmental changes and its effects on ecosystems. Prior inferences about the paleoenvironment of this locality made on the basis of qualitative observations have ranged from grassland to open woodland to wetland. Examination of the carbon and oxygen isotopes in the tooth enamel of marsupials from this site represents a quantitative method for inferring the paleoenvironments and paleoecology of the fossil fauna. Results from Chinchilla show that Protemnodon sp. indet. consumed both C3 and C4 photosynthesis plant types (mean ?13C = -14.5±2.0‰), and therefore probably occupied a mixed vegetation environment. Macropus sp. indet. from Chinchilla also consumed a mixed diet of both C3 and C4 plants, with more of a tendency for C4 plant consumption (mean ?13C = -10.3±2.3‰). Interestingly, their isotopic dietary signature is more consistent with tropical and temperate kangaroo communities than the sub-tropical communities found around Chinchilla today. Other genera sampled in this study include the extinct kangaroo Troposodon sp. indet. and the fossil diprotodontid Euryzygoma dunense each of which appear to have occupied distinct dietary niches. This study suggests that southeastern Queensland hosted a mosaic of tropical forests, wetlands and grasslands during the Pliocene and was much less arid than previously thought.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)8
    JournalPLOS ONE (Public Library of Science)
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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