Australian Museum Journal New records of Plio-Pleistocene koalas from Australia: palaeoecological and taxonomic implications

Shortform:
Price et al., 2009, Rec. Aust. Mus. 61(1): 39–48
Author(s):
Price, Gilbert J.; Zhao, Jian-xin; Feng, Yue-xing; Hocknull, Scott A.
Year published:
2009
Title:
New records of Plio-Pleistocene koalas from Australia: palaeoecological and taxonomic implications
Serial title:
Records of the Australian Museum
Volume:
61
Issue:
1
Start page:
39
End page:
48
DOI:
10.3853/j.0067-1975.61.2009.1518
Language:
English
Date published:
27 May 2009
Cover date:
27 May 2009
ISSN:
0067-1975
CODEN:
RAUMAJ
Publisher:
The Australian Museum
Place published:
Sydney, Australia
Subjects:
MAMMALIA: MARSUPIALIA; PALAEONTOLOGY; ECOLOGY; TAXONOMY
Digitized:
27 May 2009
Available online:
27 May 2009
Reference number:
1518
EndNote package:
EndNote file
Title page:
Title page (41kb PDF)
Complete work:
Complete work (271kb PDF)

Abstract

Koalas (Phascolarctidae, Marsupialia) are generally rare components of the Australian fossil record. However, new specimens of fossil koalas were recovered during recent systematic excavations from several eastern Plio-Pleistocene deposits of Queensland, eastern Australia, including the regions of Chinchilla, Marmor and Mt. Etna. The new records are significant in that they extend the temporal and geographic range of Plio-Pleistocene koalas from southern and southeastern Australia, to northeastern central Queensland. We provide the first unambiguous evidence of koalas in the Pliocene Chinchilla Local Fauna (phascolarctid indet. and Ph. ?stirtoni): important additions to an increasingly diverse arboreal mammalian assemblage that also includes tree kangaroos. The persistence of koalas and local extinction of tree kangaroos in the Chinchilla region today suggests that significant habitat and faunal reorganization occurred between the Pliocene and Recent, presumably reflecting the expansion of open woodlands and grasslands. Other koala records from the newly U/Th-dated Middle Pleistocene Marmor and Mt. Etna fossil deposits (Phascolarctos sp. and Ph. ?stirtoni), along with independent palaeohabitat proxies, indicate the former presence of heterogeneous habitats comprised of rainforests, open woodlands and grasslands. The lack of such habitat mosaics in those regions today is likely the product of significant Middle Pleistocene climate change.

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