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03. Scott Hocknull - Dinosaur Man

Mt Etna KANGAROOS AND POSSUMS

Images of Aepyprymnus and Thylogale by Gary Cranitch

Images of Aepyprymnus and Thylogale by Gary Cranitch,© Queensland Museum; Dendrolagus by Erik K Veland, Creative Commons licence BY-NC; Petrogale by Doug Beckers, Creative Commons licence BY-SA. Illustration of Bohra (extinct tree kangaroo) by artist, Robert Allen, © Queensland Museum.

Kangaroos are one of the most diverse groups within the fauna and include several extinct species such as Bohra.

Of most obvious note are the tree kangaroos such as Dendrolagus. These species are more closely related to species from New Guinea than they are to the two prehistoric species from the Wet Tropics of Queensland. This shows that there was a greater interchange of fauna between the Wet Tropics of Queensland and New Guinea than was previously thought. The current diversity found in the Wet Tropics is considerably less than what was present only 280,000 years ago or less.

Dendrolagus (tree kangaroos) and Thylogale (pademelons) became reduced in species richness. Some species were replaced by more arid-adapted forms. Examples include: Macropus; and Petrogale, the rock wallaby.

Images of Petauroides and Acrobates by Gary Cranitch

Images of Petauroides and Acrobates by Gary Cranitch, © Queensland Museum; Pseudochirulus © Queensland Museum; Trichosurus by Pierre Pouliquin, Creative Commons licence BY-NC.

Possum diversity is remarkable with at least 13 genera of possum and as many as 23 species. (Genera: the plural form of genus. A genus is a group of similar species.)This decreased markedly to just two possum species found after 280,000 years ago.

Past species richness is much greater than the diversity of possums found in the Wet Tropics today. It was also greater than current estimates for regions in New Guinea. Massive extinctions have occurred within the possum faunas of Australia over the last 280,000 years.

The most common species of possums found today are Pseudocheirus peregrinus, the common ringtail possum and Trichosurus, the brushtail possum.