Brushtail possum in Australia


This video says about itself:

8 December 2017

On this episode of Breaking Trail, Coyote meets Blossom the incredibly CUTE Brushtail Possum!

The Common Brushtail Possum is one of Australia’s most adorable and widespread marsupials. Blossom is a rescued ambassador for her species that lives at the Billabong Sanctuary in Queensland Australia and she quickly became one of the crews favorite animals encountered on their recent visit down under! Get ready to meet the worlds cutest possum!

HUGE THANKS to the Billabong Sanctuary and their staff for hosting the crew at this location and for all the work they do to preserve Australias magnificent wildlife. To meet Blossom for yourself consider making a visit!

Breaking Trail leaves the map behind and follows adventurer and animal expert Coyote Peterson and his crew as they encounter a variety of wildlife in the most amazing environments on the planet!

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Marsupial lion fossil discovery in Australia


Wakaleo schouteni, the new species of marsupial lion lived in Australia around 19 million years ago. Peter Schouten, Journal of Systematic Palaeontology

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Extinct kangaroo-like lion discovered in Australia

Fossil of dog-sized 19 million year-old marsupial reveals new insights into family tree of these ancient creatures

Josh Gabbatiss, Science Correspondent

Thursday 7 December 2017 01:14 GMT

The fossilised remains of a new species of marsupial lion have been found in Australia.

The predatory creature, named Wakaleo schouteni, is a relative of modern marsupials – mammals like kangaroos and koalas that keep their young in pouches.

It is also closely related to the last surviving species of marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, which had enormous dagger-like fangs and the strongest bite of any known mammal species.

Though that species survived until around 30,000 years ago, it is thought that the arrival of humans in Australia may be linked to its demise.

This new lion is considerably more ancient. The scientists who discovered it estimate that it has been extinct for at least 19 million years.

It is also considerably smaller. While at 130 kg the larger marsupial lions could have been a real threat to our ancestors, this new species is around the size of a dog, weighing around 23 kg.

The discovery has helped researchers understand the family tree of marsupial lions, which are thought to have existed in Australia at least as far back as 25 million years ago.

“The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family”, said at Dr Anna Gillespie, a palaeontologist at the University of New South Wales and lead author of the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology paper describing the new species.

By examining the teeth of the newly identified specimen, Dr Gillespie and her collaborators have deduced that it is one of the most primitive marsupial lions discovered so far.

Marsupial lions are thought to have been skilful ambush predators that would have terrorised the Australian bush.

Prior to the arrival of humans in Australia, the continent was home to a huge array of giant marsupials.

See also here.

Saving Australia’s endangered mountain pygmy possums


This 2015 video is called Mountain Pygmy Possums – Endangered Species Edit.

From the University of Melbourne in Australia:

Genetic rescue boosts recovery of Australia’s endangered mountain pygmy possums

October 23, 2017

For the first time, a breeding technique known as genetic rescue has been shown to increase population numbers and survival rates of the endangered mountain pygmy possum, now at their highest numbers since 1996.

The study was conducted by a team from the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, CESAR, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management, and the University of New South Wales.

Dr Andrew Weeks from the University of Melbourne led the project, published in the international journal Nature Communications.

Genetic rescue was used to introduce male mountain pygmy possums, Burramys parvus, from a healthy population at Mt Hotham, to a recipient group of females at Mt Buller. The two groups had become physically isolated from each other over 20,000 years.

This isolation had led to inbreeding and a lack of the genetic variation that is essential for overcoming disease and ensuring the ability to thrive.

Dr Weeks says that since the genetic rescue program began in 2011, the possum population has gone through rapid growth and is now larger than when the population was first discovered in 1996.

“Before 2010, there was thought to be only a handful of individuals at Mt Buller,” Dr Weeks says. “Now, Mt Buller females from the genetic rescue are bigger and have more offspring that survive longer than the progeny of pygmy possums born outside the program. We now estimate the population to be over 200 possums,” he says.

Co-author Dr Ian Mansergh from La Trobe University says the study’s findings mark an important development in conservation management.

“Our study confirms genetic rescue as a successful conservation technique, especially when used for small, isolated populations of threatened species,” Dr Mansergh says.

Along with genetic rescue, there was also a program of habitat restoration, predator control and environmental protection instituted by the land manager, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management.

The researchers say this was essential to avoid losing the benefits of genetic rescue if populations cannot expand and still face the threats that reduced the population in the first place.

Dr Weeks and the University of Melbourne’s Professor Ary Hoffmann, who co-authored the possum paper, are now also leading a genetic rescue program for the critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot at Mt Rothwell Conservation Centre near Little River in Victoria.

Prof Hoffmann says the long-term hope for genetic rescue is that it will provide endangered animals with enough genetic variation to adapt and evolve to new challenges, such as climate change.

“These animals are now facing an extra threat. They are experiencing physical isolation and introduced predators as well as climate warming,” Professor Hoffman says. “The hope is that animals can adapt if we give them the genetic tools to do so.

“We have shown the technique is successful in the mountain pygmy possum, and hope the Eastern Barred Bandicoot can recover if they are also given enough support.”

Extinct fanged kangaroos, new research


This video says about itself:

The Fossil Record and Evolution of Kangaroos

28 February 2016

I would first like to give visual credit to BBC Earth, which they have some epic shots on kangaroos.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Fanged kangaroo research could shed light on extinction

October 16, 2017

Fanged kangaroos — an extinct family of small fanged Australian kangaroos — might have survived at least five million years longer than previously thought.

A University of Queensland-led study has found the species might have competed for resources with ancestors of modern kangaroos.

Research into species diversity, body size and the timing of extinction found that fanged kangaroos, previously thought to have become extinct about 15 million years ago, persisted to at least 10 million years ago.

The fanged kangaroos, including the species Balbaroo fangaroo, were about the size of a small wallaby.

UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD student Kaylene Butler said the research involved Queensland Museum holdings of ancient fossil deposits from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, where kangaroo fossil evidence goes back as far as 25 million years.

“Fanged kangaroos and the potential ancestors of modern kangaroos are both browsers — meaning they ate leaves — and they scurried, but did not hop,” Ms Butler said.

“Northern Queensland was predominantly covered in rainforest when these fanged kangaroos first appear in the fossil record.

“There is a lot of research to be done before we can be sure what their canine teeth were used for but some have suggested they were used to attract potential mates. We do know that despite their large canines they were herbivorous (plant eaters).

“We found that fanged kangaroos increased in body size right up until their extinction.”

Ms Butler said the research aimed to fill significant gaps in the understanding of kangaroo evolution, and new fossil finds were helping to bring ancient lineages into focus.

“Currently 21 macropod species are listed as vulnerable or endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species,” she said.

She said understanding when and why kangaroos went extinct in the past could help with understanding what drove extinction of such animals.

“Currently, we can only hypothesise as to why balbarids became extinct — the original hypothesis related to events during a change in climate 15 million years ago but the balbarids persisted past that,” she said.

“This new finding of their persistence until 10 million years ago means something else must have been at play, such as being outcompeted by other species.”

Ms Butler last year discovered two new ancient species of kangaroo, Cookeroo bulwidarri and Cookeroo hortusensis.

She has worked on fossil material as part of her PhD research supervised by former UQ Robert Day Fellow Dr Kenny Travouillon, now of the Western Australian Museum, and UQ’s Dr Gilbert Price.

Tasmanian devil-like fossil marsupial discovery in Turkey


An artist’s reconstruction of Anatoliadelphys maasae. Image credit: Peter Schouten

From the University of Salford in England:

‘Euro Devil’: Fossil of carnivorous marsupial relative discovered in E Europe

August 17, 2017

Scientists have discovered fossil remains of a new carnivorous mammal in Turkey, one of the biggest marsupial relatives ever discovered in the northern hemisphere.

The findings, by Dr Robin Beck from the University of Salford in the UK and Dr Murat Maga, of the University of Washington who discovered the fossil, are published today in the journal PLoS ONE.

The new fossil is a 43 million year old cat-sized mammal that had powerful teeth and jaws for crushing hard food, like the modern Tasmanian Devil. It is related to the pouched mammals, or marsupials, of Australia and South America, and it shows that marsupial relatives, or metatherians, were far more diverse in the northern hemisphere than previously believed.

Dr Maga found the fossil at a site near the town of Kazan, northwest of the Turkish capital, Ankara. It has been named Anatoliadelphys maasae, after the ancient name for Turkey, and Dr Mary Maas, a Turkish-American palaeontologist. The fossil is remarkably well preserved, and includes parts of the skull and most of the skeleton.

It shows that Anatoliadelphys weighed 3-4 kilograms, about the size of a domestic cat, and that it was capable of climbing. It had powerful teeth and jaws, for eating animals and possibly crushing bones. Features of the teeth and bones of Anatoliadelphys show that is closely related to marsupials, but it is not known whether it had a pouch or not.

Dr Beck, who is a world expert in the evolution of marsupials and their fossil relatives, said: “This was definitely an odd little beast — imagine something a bit like a mini-Tasmanian devil that could climb trees.

“It could probably have eaten pretty much anything it could catch — beetles, snails, frogs, lizards, small mammals, bones, and probably some plant material as well. This find changes what we thought we knew about the evolution of marsupial relatives in the northern hemisphere — they were clearly a far more diverse bunch than we ever suspected.”

Most fossil metatherians from the northern hemisphere were insect-eating creatures no bigger than mice or rats, whereas Anatoliadelphys was ten times larger and could have eaten vertebrate prey.

“It might seem odd to find a fossil of a marsupial relative in Turkey, but the ancestors of marsupials actually originated in the northern hemisphere, and they survived there until about 12 million years ago,” said Dr Beck.

The region of Turkey where Anatoliadelphys was found was probably an island 43 million years ago, which may have enabled Anatoliadelphys to survive without competition from carnivorous placental mammals, such as fossil relatives of cats, dogs and weasels.

Today, many marsupials in Australia have been driven to extinction due to the introduction of the dingo, cats and foxes, suggesting that marsupials may be competitively inferior to placentals.

See also here.

A large Tasmanian devil relative has been discovered from a new fossil locality in the outback of northwestern Queensland. The Riversleigh fossil site in northwestern Queensland, Australia, is home to a rich fauna of Oligocene to Miocene aged marsupials. A new fossil site called Wholly Dooley Hill has been discovered near Riversleigh. Wholly Dooley Hill preserves sediments that were deposited in the floor of a limestone cave, a cave that has since eroded and only preserves its floor: here.

How kangaroos stay cool


This video says about itself:

Amazing Kangaroo Technique To Stay Cool – Planet Earth – BBC Earth

2 April 2017

Australia is the world’s most arid continent, and its blistering daytime heat can be a potential killer. Using thermal imaging, we are given a fascinating glimpse into how the Red Kangaroos cool their body temperatures and avoid the deadly effects of the mid day sun.