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Temporal range: Pleistocene
Sthenurus BW.jpg
Sthenurus stirlingi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Macropodidae
Subfamily: Sthenurinae
Genus: Sthenurus
(Owen, 1873a)

Sthenurus ("Strong Tail") is an extinct genus of kangaroo. With a length of about 3 m (10 ft), some species were twice as large as modern extant species. Sthenurus was related to the better-known Procoptodon.

Fossil habitats[edit]

Palatel view of an Sthenurus sp skull.

Research by Darren R. Gröcke from Monash University, analysed the diets of fauna at various fossil site localites in South Australia, using stable carbon isotope analysis 13C/12C of collagen. He found that at older localities like Cooper Creek the Sthenurus sp. was adapted to a diet of leaves and twigs (browsing). This was due to the wet climate of the time period between 132,000-108,000 years (TL and uranium dating), which allowed for a more varied vegetation cover.

At the Baldina Creek fossil site 30,000 years (C14 dating), the genus had adapted to a diet of grasses (grazing). At this time the area was open grasslands with sparse tree cover as the continent was drier than today. But at Dempsey's Lake ( 36-25,000 years) and Rockey River (19,000 C14 dating), their diet was of both grazing and browsing. This analysis may be because of a wetter climatic period. The overall anatomy of the genus did not evolve for the change in diet and dentition did not adapt to the varying toughness of the vegetation between grasses, shrubs and trees.[3]

Other species found in the Cuddie Springs habitat were the flightless bird Genyornis, the Red kangaroo, the Diprotodon, humans and many others.[4][5]


In anatomy they had a tail shorter but stronger than present species of kangaroo, and only one toe instead of three like the Red Kangaroo. At the end of the foot was a small hoof like nail suited for flat terrain;[6] this toe is considered their fourth toe.[7]

Their skeletal structure was very robust with powerful hind limbs, broad pelvis, longer arms and phalanges than modern species and a short neck. Their phalangel bones that make up their fingers may have been used to hold stems and twigs. These unique adaptations suited their feeding habits of browsing in the case of S. occidentalis, but other species were most likely grazers.[6]

They possessed a short deep skull which was suited for eyes with stereoscopic vision; this allowed for better vision.[7]


These structures were tough and strongly enameled, useful for tough vegetation and with a striation pattern.[6]

Human interaction[edit]

From evidence gathered at Cuddie Springs according to Judith Field and Richard Fullagerit (as cited in Macey 2003) it is known that Native Australians inhabited the same habitat as that of Sthenurus and various other extant and extinct species of animal. At this locality there seems to be a lack of any specific tools suitable for hunting. Instead there are tools used to cut meat off the bone, as there is blood residue left on the stone tools. Any material made of wood for hunting like the boomerang and spear has either not survived intact or was not used by the people of the time in this locality.[4][5]


  1. ^ Haaramo, M. (2004-12-20). "Mikko's Phylogeny Archive: Macropodidae - kenguroos". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  2. ^ Gavin J. Prideaux, John A. Long, Linda K. Ayliffe, John C. Hellstrom, Brad Pillans, Walter E. Boles, Mark N. Hutchinson, Richard G. Roberts, Matthew L. Cupper, Lee J. Arnold, Paul D. Devine & Natalie M. Warburton (2007-01-25). "An arid-adapted middle Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from south-central Australia". Nature 445 (7126): 422–425. doi:10.1038/nature05471. PMID 17251978. 
  3. ^ Darren R. Gröcke (N/A) VIEPS Department of Earth Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3168, Australia Carbon-Isotope Shifts Recorded in Megafaunal Dietary Niches of C3 and C4 Plants in the Late Pleistocene of South Australia: Correlation with Palaeofloral Reconstructions. Monash University, Clayton. Retrieved on 2007-06-26.
  4. ^ a b Macey, Richard (October 2003). "Maybe they didn't fit in the oven". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  5. ^ a b Furby, Judith (December 1996). "Dinnertime at Cuddie Springs: hunting and butchering megafauna?". University of Sydney. Archived from the original on 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  6. ^ a b c "Extinct Animals- Simosthenurus occidentalis". ParksWeb. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-09-05. Retrieved 2007-07-02. 
  7. ^ a b "The age of the Megafauna". ABC online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-02. 

External links[edit]