Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 141–167 | Cite as

Sexually Dimorphic Bandicoots (Marsupialia: Peramelemorphia) From the Oligo-Miocene of Australia, First Cranial Ontogeny for Fossil Bandicoots and New Species Descriptions

  • Kenny J. Travouillon
  • Michael Archer
  • Suzanne J. Hand
  • Jeanette Muirhead
Original Paper


Peramelemorphians (bandicoots and bilbies) are unique among mammals in having the shortest gestation period. Very little is known about their evolutionary history primarily because until recently their fossil record was scarce. Here we describe two new species, Madju variae, gen. et sp. nov., from late Oligocene to middle Miocene deposits from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, Queensland, and the Kutjamarpu Local Fauna, South Australia, and Madju encorensis, gen. et sp. nov., also from Riversleigh WHA but from the late middle to early late Miocene. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that they are best regarded as basal members of the Superfamily Perameloidea. Species of Madju are unusual in showing a distinct reduction in size through time, possibly reflecting environmental change from the early to late Miocene. Madju variae is the first-known sexually dimorphic fossil peramelemorphian. The preservation and representation of specimens of M. variae is exceptional, enabling documentation of ontogenetic development from juvenile to old adult stage suggesting that juveniles of M. variae developed more slowly than their modern counterparts and that lactation lasted for a longer time. If so, the short gestation of modern peramelemorphians would appear to be a specialisation that might have evolved sometime after the middle Miocene.


Fossil bandicoots Sexual dimorphism Cranial ontogeny Riversleigh World Heritage Area Kutjamarpu Local Fauna 



Support for research at Riversleigh has come from the Australian Research Council (LP0989969, LP100200486, DP1094569 & DP130100197 grants to M. Archer and S.J. Hand at the University of New South Wales); XSTRATA Community Partnership Program (North Queensland); the University of New South Wales; P. Creaser and the CREATE Fund; the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service; Environment Australia; the Queensland Museum; the Riversleigh Society Inc.; Outback at Isa; Mount Isa City Council; private supporters including K. & M. Pettit, E. Clark, M. Beavis, and M. Dickson; and the Waanyi people of northwestern Queensland. Assistance in the field has come from many hundreds of volunteers as well as staff and postgraduate students of the University of New South Wales. We thank R. Day for providing funding to the University of Queensland to create a postdoctoral position for K. J. Travouillon. We thank S. Ingleby and A. Divljan from the Australian Museum, H. Janetzki from the Queensland Museum, and C. Stevenson from the Western Australian Museum for providing access to modern bandicoot specimens. We thank the UNSW Palaeosciences Lab and the UQ Palaeo Hub for their support and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenny J. Travouillon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Archer
    • 2
  • Suzanne J. Hand
    • 2
  • Jeanette Muirhead
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Earth SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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