Understanding morphological variation in the extant koala as a framework for identification of species boundaries in extinct koalas (Phascolarctidae; Marsupialia)

Black, Karen H., Louys, Julien and Price, Gilbert J. (2014) Understanding morphological variation in the extant koala as a framework for identification of species boundaries in extinct koalas (Phascolarctidae; Marsupialia). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 12 2: 237-264. doi:10.1080/14772019.2013.768304

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Author Black, Karen H.
Louys, Julien
Price, Gilbert J.
Title Understanding morphological variation in the extant koala as a framework for identification of species boundaries in extinct koalas (Phascolarctidae; Marsupialia)
Journal name Journal of Systematic Palaeontology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1477-2019
1478-0941
Publication date 2014
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1080/14772019.2013.768304
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 12
Issue 2
Start page 237
End page 264
Total pages 28
Place of publication Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Publisher Taylor and Francis
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
We document morphological variation (both geographical and sexual) in the dentition of the extant koala, Phascolarctos
cinereus
, in order to facilitate discrimination of species boundaries in extinct phascolarctids. Considerable variation is evident
in dental structures previously used to diagnose several phascolarctid fossil species. Consistent patterns of morphological
variation are not evident between sexes or geographic regions, with variation as great between samples as within them. Metric
variation is evident between the sexes in upper molar dimensions with Victorian (southern) males significantly larger than
Victorian females, although this is not reflected in lower molar dimensions or in the Queensland (northern) sample. Male
koalas from southern populations generally display significantly larger molars than their northern counterparts; however this
trend is not evident in female upper molar dimensions. In both males and females, some, but not all, lower molar dimensions
are larger in southern populations than northern. In light of these results, a systematic revision of species of Litokoalasuggests
L. ‘dicktedfordi’ is a junior synonym of L. kutjamarpensis, and the poorly known L. thurmerae is regarded to be a nomen
dubium. Further, we describe a partial cranium of a new species of koala from Early Miocene sediments in the Riversleigh
World Heritage Area, northern Australia. Litokoala dicksmithi sp. nov. is the fifth koala species recorded from the diverse
rainforest assemblages of Riversleigh and the third species referred to the Oligo-Miocene genusLitokoala. Aspects of cranial
morphology, including a shortened robust rostrum and broad, irregular nasal aperture, confirm placement of Litokoala as
sister taxon to the modern genus Phascolarctos. Relatively large orbits and small body size suggest the possibility that L.
dicksmithi
was nocturnal, had enhanced visual acuity, and was a more agile arboreal species than the relatively sedentary
extant koala.
Keyword Intraspecific variation
Morphometric
Phascolarctomorphia
Rainforest
Miocene
Riversleigh
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online 14 May 2013

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Earth Sciences Papers
 
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 7 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 10 Apr 2013, 14:08:04 EST by Ashleigh Paroz on behalf of School of Earth Sciences