The skeleton of Congruus kitcheneri, a semiarboreal kangaroo from the Pleistocene of southern Australia

Natalie M. Warburton, Gavin J. Prideaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The macropodine kangaroo, Wallabia kitcheneri, was first described in 1989 from a Pleistocene deposit within Mammoth Cave, southwestern Australia, on the basis of a few partial dentaries and maxilla fragments. Here, we recognize W. kitcheneri within the Pleistocene assemblages of the Thylacoleo Caves, south-central Australia, where it is represented by several cranial specimens and two near-complete skeletons, a probable male and female. We reallocate this species to the hitherto monotypic genus Congruus. Congruus kitcheneri differs from all other macropodid species by having a highly unusual pocket within the wall of the nasal cavity. It is distinguished from C. congruus by having a longer, narrower rostrum, a taller occiput and a deeper jugal. Congruus is closest to Protemnodon in overall cranial morphology but is smaller and less robust. In most postcranial attributes, Congruus also resembles Protemnodon, including general limb robustness and the atypical ratio of 14 thoracic to five lumbar vertebrae. It is distinguished by the high mobility of its glenohumeral joints, the development of muscle attachment sites for strong adduction and mobility of the forelimb, and large, robust manual and pedal digits with strongly recurved distal phalanges. These adaptations resemble those of tree-kangaroos more than ground-dwelling macropodines. We interpret this to imply that C. kitcheneri was semiarboreal, with a propensity to climb and move slowly through trees. This is the first evidence for the secondary adoption of a climbing habit within crown macropodines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number202216
Number of pages54
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Australia
  • biogeography
  • locomotion
  • mammal
  • Pleistocene
  • Pliocene
  • taxonomy

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