Bok Khoo
MPhil candidate
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 2125

Room 555, D26 Building
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Systematics and Palaeoecology of a late Cenozoic Zygomaturine (Marsupialia, Diprotodontidae)

Diprotodontids are a diverse (22 genera, 40 species) group of extinct marsupial megaherbivores that were common and widespread in Australian and New Guinean fossil deposits from the late Oligocene to the late Pleistocene. At present the phylogenetic relationships of late Cenozoic diprotodontids are poorly understood with controversy regarding not only the subfamilial placement of several genera, but also the number of subfamilies within Diprotodontidae. The relationships and time of divergence of New Guinea diprotodontids are also poorly resolved. 

In 2011, dental and cranial material of a large diprotodontid from the Floraville Local Fauna of north-western Queensland was excavated during the UNSW field trip to Floraville and the Riversleigh World Heritage Area. My research project is to prepare, analyse and describe this material. Qualitative and quantitative comparison of the Floraville skull morphology to other diprotodontids suggest that it may represent a new species of zygomaturine diprotodontid that is most closely related to Kukaodonta robusta Mackness, 2010, excavated from the same location in 1974. Phylogenetic analysis with scored morphological characters confirm this finding, and further suggest that the Floraville skull represents one of the most derived zygomaturine diprotodontids. Results from the dating of the deposit using Optical Stimulated Luminescence indicate a maximum age for this specimen of 400,000 to 450 ,000 years old, placing this specimen in the mid Pleistocene, and provide support for the results of the phylogenetic analysis that this skull represents one of the most derived zygomaturine diprotodontids.

The material studied here from the Floraville Local Fauna represents a key period in the evolution of Diprotodontidae. Its analysis will provide a better understanding of the evolution and diversity of these giant marsupials in Australia and may ellucidate the timing of their dispersal to New Guinea.


Professor Mike Archer


Dr Karen Black