Tingamarra

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Tingamarra
Temporal range: Early Eocene
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Theria
Genus: Tingamarra
Godthelp et al., 1992
Type species
Tingamarra porterorum

Tingamarra is an extinct genus of mammals from Australia. Its age, lifestyle, and relationships remain controversial.

Discovery[edit]

Tingamarra was discovered in 1987, when a single tooth was found at the Murgon fossil site in south-eastern Queensland. An ankle bone and an ear bone found at Murgon may also belong to this animal.

Material[edit]

Holotype: QMF20564, isolated right lower molar, probably an M2 or M3.[1]

Diagnosis[edit]

1. Non-twinned hypoconulid and entoconid.

2. Lack of a well developed buccal postcingulid.

3. Lack of anteroposteriorly compressed trigonid.

4. Broadly open trigonid.

5. Lingually situated paraconid that is also well anterior to the protoconid.

Assumed lifestyle[edit]

Tingamarra is believed to be a small (about 20 cm from head to tail) ground-dwelling mammal that ate insects and fruit.

Scientific significance[edit]

The age of Murgon fossils was determined as the early Eocene.[1] If it is correct, then these fossils are the oldest Australian mammal ones.

By the shape of the found tooth, Tingamarra was first classified as a condylarth.[1] This is a primitive order of mammals which are ancestral to modern ungulates. If this interpretation is correct, Tingamarra appears to be the only land-based placental mammal to have arrived to Australia before about 8 million years ago. The only other native placental mammals in Australia are rodents and Dingos (which arrived here more recently), and bats (which presumably flew in).

Most Australian mammals are marsupials instead. There were many cases in the past and present, when placental and marsupial mammals compete for resources, and placentals usually win. Before Tingamarra was found, there was no doubt that marsupials had done well in Australia only because for many millions of years they had no placentals to compete with. Thus the discovery of Tingamarra surprised scientists.

However, both the age and placental nature of Tingamarra were subsequently challenged by other researchers. Woodburne et al.[2] argued that: 1) the true age of Murgon fossil site is the late Oligocene, and 2) that indeed neither shape nor microstructure of the tooth do not allow to distinguish whether Tingamarra was marsupial or placental. Then Rose[3] concluded that at present there is no undoubted evidence to change the established views.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Godthelp, H., Archer, M., Cifelli, R., Hand, S.J., and Gilkeson, C.F. 1992. Earliest known Australian Tertiary mammal fauna. Nature, 356:514–516
  2. ^ Woodburne, M.O.; Case, J.A. (1996). "Dispersal, Vicariance, and the Late Cretaceous to Early Tertiary Land Mammal Biogeography from South America to Australia". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 3 (2): 121–161. doi:10.1007/bf01454359. 
  3. ^ Rose, Kenneth David (2006). "Reflections and Speculations on the Beginning of the Age of Mammals". The Beginning of the Age of mammals. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 337. ISBN 0-8018-8472-1. Retrieved 2007-08-19.