Bearing up well? Understanding the past, present and future of Australia's koalas

Black, Karen H., Price, Gilbert J., Archer, Michael and Hand, Suzanne J. (2014) Bearing up well? Understanding the past, present and future of Australia's koalas. Gondwana Research, 25 3: 1186-1201. doi:10.1016/j.gr.2013.12.008


Author Black, Karen H.
Price, Gilbert J.
Archer, Michael
Hand, Suzanne J.
Title Bearing up well? Understanding the past, present and future of Australia's koalas
Journal name Gondwana Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1342-937X
Publication date 2014-04
Year available 2013
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.gr.2013.12.008
Open Access Status
Volume 25
Issue 3
Start page 1186
End page 1201
Total pages 16
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The modern Koala Phascolarctos cinereus is the last surviving member of a once diverse family Phascolarctidae (Marsupialia, Phascolarctomorphia). Nine genera and at least 16 species of koala are known. Late Oligocene sediments of central Australia record the oldest fossils and highest species diversity. Five species are known from the early to middle Miocene rainforest assemblages of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, Queensland. With the onset of dryer conditions after the middle Miocene climatic optimum (~ 16 Ma), rainforest habitats contracted resulting in the apparent extinction of three koala lineages (Litokoala, Nimiokoala, Priscakoala). Phascolarctos first appears in the fossil record during the Pliocene and the modern species around 350 ka. Despite a dramatic decline in taxonomic diversity to a single extant species, the fossil record indicates that at most only three koala species coexisted in any given faunal assemblage throughout their 24. million year history. Within these assemblages, the vast majority of extinct koalas are extremely rare (some known from only a single specimen) which may reflect a general rarity within their palaeohabitats compared with the modern species which is represented by an estimated 400,000 individuals spread over most of eastern mainland Australia. Be that as it may, P. cinereus, although once geographically more widespread, occurring for example in Western Australia in the Pleistocene, underwent significant range contractions and localized population extinctions during the stressful climatic conditions of the late Pleistocene and more recently through human-induced habitat destruction. Combined with threats of disease, reduced genetic diversity and climate change, the survival of this iconic Australian marsupial is arguably a cause for concern.
Keyword Cenozoic
Faunal change
Phascolarctidae
Species diversity
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online 30 December 2013

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: School of Earth Sciences Publications
Official 2014 Collection
 
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