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Sci Rep. 2016 May 27;6:26911. doi: 10.1038/srep26911.

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

Author information

1
PANGEA Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth &Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia.
2
School of Environmental &Life Sciences, University of Salford, Salford M5 4WT, UK.
3
Department of Archaeology and Natural History, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, ACT 2601, Australia.
4
Biological Resources Imaging Laboratory, Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre, University of New South Wales 2052, Australia.

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 Australia's rainforests that has not been occupied by any other mammal group anywhere in the world from the Miocene onwards.

PMID:
27229325
PMCID:
PMC4882580
DOI:
10.1038/srep26911
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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