Extinct (1280–1420 CE)
Forsyth Major, 1894
Megaladapis, informally known as koala lemur, is an extinct genus belonging to the family Megaladapidae, consisting of three extinct species of lemurs that once inhabited the island of Madagascar. The largest measured between 1.3 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 ft) in length.
Megaladapis was quite different from any living lemur. Its body was squat and built like that of the modern koala. Its long arms, fingers, feet, and toes were specialized for grasping trees, and its legs were splayed for vertical climbing. The hands and feet were curved and the ankles and wrists did not have the usual stability needed to travel on the ground that most other Lemurids have. Its head was unlike any other primates, most strikingly, its eyes were on the sides of its skull, instead of forward on the skull like all other primates. Its long canine teeth and a cow-like jaw formed a tapering snout. Its jaw muscles were powerful for chewing the tough native vegetation. Its body weight reached 50 kilograms (110 lb). The shape of its skull was unique among all known primates, with a nasal region which showed similarities to those of rhinoceros, what was probably a feature combined with an enlarged upper lip for grasping leaves. An endocast of the skull was taken and it was found that the brain capacity was about 250cc. This is about 3 to 4 times the size of a common cat's.
Megaladapis evolved because the island's topography was always changing. Along with the other lemurs, Megaladapis specialized within its own niche. The general expectations of tree climbers such as Megaladapis is that with an increase in size, the body's forelimbs will also increase proportionally.
It is often believed that Malagasy legends of the tretretretre or tratratratra, an extinct animal, refer to Megaladapis, but the details of these tales, notably the "human-like" face of the animal, match the related Palaeopropithecus much better.
When humans arrived, between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago, the archaeological record shows that they cleared large areas of the island using "slash-and-burn" techniques. Unable to adapt to the environmental changes and the presence of humans, Megaladapis became extinct approximately 500 years ago.
Megaladapis has been found around the marsh of Ambolisatra on the southwestern side of Madagascar and was one of multiple Megafauna that went extinct on Madagascar during this time period. They were also slow-moving creatures that were active during the day. This might have made them more susceptible to predators, forest fires, habitat destruction, and possibly introduced pathogens.
|Images of Megaladapis|
- Mittermeier, Russell A. et al. (2006). Lemurs of Madagascar (2nd ed.). Conservation International. pp. 46–49. ISBN 1-881173-88-7.
- Nowak, Ronald M. (1999). Walker's Primates of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-8018-6251-5.
- Spor, Fred; Garland, Jr., Theodore; Krovitz, Gail; Ryan, Timothy M.; Silcox, Mary T.; Walker, Alan (2007). "The Primate Semicircular Canal System and Locomotion". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 104, No. 26. p. 10811.
- Major, C.I. Forsyth (1894). "On Megaladapis madagascariensis, an Extinct Gigantic Lemuroid from Madagascar; with Remarks on the Associated Fauna, and On Its Geological Age". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Vol. 185. pp. 15–38.
- Jungers, William L. (1980). "Adaptive diversity in subfossil Malagasy prosimians". Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie. pp. 177–186.
- Simons, E. L. (2003). "Chapter 6: Lemurs: Old and New". In Goodman, S. M.; Benstead, J. P. Natural Change and Human Impact in Madagascar. University of Chicago Press. pp. 142–166. ISBN 0-226-30306-3.
- Culotta, Elizabeth (1995). "Many Suspects to Blame in Madagascar Extinctions". Science, New Series, Vol. 268, No. 5217. pp. 1568–1569.