Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Light Shed on Koala Evolution

15.12.2009
The world at large knows koalas as cute, cuddly, lovable iconic animals. The evolutionary biologist, on the other hand, will know them as extremely specialized, endangered animals, the evolutionary history of which is extremely poorly understood.

Recently discovered skull material belonging to the extinct koalas Litokoala and Nimiokoala offers a major step forward in understanding koala evolution, according to a new study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The study, which was carried out by a team led by Dr. Julien Louys of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, focused on the evolution of the masticatory (chewing) apparatus and hearing.

At the time these extinct koalas lived, the Australian continent was wetter and much more forested than it is today. As the continent dried out and the flora became dominated by plants with hard, tough leaves, animals such as koalas had to adapt to this new food resource. The team led by Dr. Louys found that the chewing apparatus of the living koala is much more specialized than its fossil forebears, including adaptations for more powerful bite forces and the ability to shred the tough leaves of the eucalypts that are the mainstay of its diet.

In contrast, analysis of the middle ear suggests that differences between the fossil and living koalas are relatively small. This indicates that the specialized loud and complex vocalizations of living koalas – a trait unusual among marsupials – likely have an ancient origin. The study therefore shows that the chewing apparatus and hearing adaptations in living koalas evolved at different times and under different environmental circumstances, an indication that adaptations, even in the most specialized animals, may have disparate origins and evolve in mosaic fashion.

ABOUT THE SOCIETY OF VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY
Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators and others interested in VP. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology.
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (JVP) is the leading journal of professional vertebrate paleontology and the flagship publication of the Society. It was founded in 1980 by Dr. Jiri Zidek and publishes contributions on all aspects of vertebrate paleontology.

Reference: Louys et al.: Cranial anatomy of Oligo-Miocene koalas (Diprotodontia: Phascolarctidae): stages in the evolution of an extreme leaf-eating specialization.

Journal Web site: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology: http://www.vertpaleo.org

CONTACT INFORMATION
Julien Louys
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
The University of New South Wales
Sydney, New South Wales 2052 Australia
j.louys@ljmu.ac.uk
Michael Archer
Faculty of Science
University of New South Wales,
Sydney, New South Wales 2052 Australia
m.archer@unsw.edu.au

| Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.vertpaleo.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion
26.07.2017 | Penn State

nachricht New virus discovered in migratory bird in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
26.07.2017 | Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion

26.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>