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Publication - Professor Christine Janis

    Ecomorphological determinations in the absence of living analogs

    The predatory behavior of the marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) as revealed by elbow joint morphology


    Figueiridio, B, Martín-Serra, A & Janis, CM, 2016, ‘Ecomorphological determinations in the absence of living analogs: The predatory behavior of the marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) as revealed by elbow joint morphology ’. Paleobiology, vol 42., pp. 508-531


    Thylacoleo carnifex, or the “pouched lion” (Mammalia:
    Marsupialia: Diprotodontia: Thylacoleonidae), was a carnivorous
    marsupial that inhabited Australia during the Pleistocene. Although all
    present-day researchers agree that Thylacoleo had a
    hypercarnivorous diet, the way in which it killed its prey remains
    uncertain. Here we use geometric morphometrics to capture the shape of
    the elbow joint (i.e., the anterior articular surface of the distal
    humerus) in a wide sample of extant mammals of known behavior to
    determine how elbow anatomy reflects forearm use. We then employ this
    information to investigate the predatory behavior of Thylacoleo. A principal components analysis indicates that Thylacoleo
    is the only carnivorous mammal to cluster with extant taxa that have an
    extreme degree of forearm maneuverability, such as primates and
    arboreal xenarthrans (pilosans). A canonical variates analysis confirms
    that Thylacoleo had forearm maneuverability intermediate
    between wombats (terrestrial) and arboreal mammals and a much greater
    degree of maneuverability than any living carnivoran placental. A linear
    discriminant analysis computed to separate the elbow morphology of
    arboreal mammals from terrestrial ones shows that Thylacoleo was primarily terrestrial but with some climbing abilities. We infer from our results that Thylacoleo
    used its forelimbs for grasping or manipulating prey to a much higher
    degree than its supposed extant placental counterpart, the African lion (Panthera leo). The use of the large and retractable claw on the semiopposable thumb of Thylacoleo for potentially slashing and disemboweling prey is discussed in the light of this new information.

    Full details in the University publications repository