Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Anatomical adaptations of the hind limb musculature of tree-kangaroos for arboreal locomotion (Marsupialia : Macropodinae)

Natalie M. Warburton A B D , Maud Yakovleff C and Auréline Malric C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Veterinary and Biomedical Science, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.

B Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Western Australian Museum, 49 Kew Street, Welshpool, WA 6106, Australia.

C L’Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, 23 Chemin des Capelles, BP 87614, 31076 Toulouse cedex 03, France.

D Corresponding author. Email: N.Warburton@murdoch.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 60(4) 246-258 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO12059
Submitted: 1 June 2012  Accepted: 18 October 2012   Published: 22 November 2012

Abstract

Tree-kangaroos (Dendrolagini) are Australasian marsupials that inhabit tropical forests of far north-eastern Queensland and New Guinea. The secondary adaptation of tree-kangaroos to an arboreal lifestyle from a terrestrial heritage offers an excellent opportunity to study the adaptation of the musculoskeletal system for arboreal locomotion, particularly from a template well adapted to terrestrial bipedal saltation. We present a detailed descriptive study of the hind limb musculature of Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo (D. lumholtzi) in comparison to other macropodines to test whether the hind limb musculature of tree-kangaroos is functionally adapted to the different mechanical demands of locomotion in the uneven three-dimensional arboreal environment. The hind limb musculature of Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi), the western brush wallaby (Macropus irma), the western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) and the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) are described. The hind limb anatomy of D. lumholtzi differed from that of the terrestrial macropodines in that the muscles had a greater degree of internal differentiation, relatively longer fleshy bellies and very short, stout tendons of insertion. There was also a modified arrangement of muscle origins and insertions that enhance mechanical advantage. Differences in the relative proportions of the hind limb muscle mass between tree-kangaroos and terrestrial macropodines reflect adaptation of the limb musculature of tree-kangaroos for arboreal locomotion. The hind limb musculature of Setonix was different to that of both Dendrolagus and Macropus, possibly reflecting its more basal phylogenetic position within the Macropodinae.

Additional keywords: Dendrolagus, marsupial evolution, myology, Setonix.


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