Morphometric classification of kangaroo bones reveals paleoecological change in northwest Australia during the terminal Pleistocene

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Scientific Reports


Specimen identification is the backbone of archeozoological research. The challenge of differentiating postcranial skeletal elements of closely related wild animals in biodiverse regions can prove a barrier to understanding past human foraging behaviours. Morphometrics are increasingly being employed to classify paleozoological animal remains, however, the potential of these methods to discriminate between wild animal groups has yet to be fully realised. Here we demonstrate the applicability of a traditional morphometric approach to taxonomically classify foot and ankle bones of kangaroos, a large and highly diverse marsupial family. Using multiple discriminant analysis, we classify archaeological specimens from Boodie Cave, in northwest Australia and identify the presence of two locally extinct macropod species during the terminal Pleistocene. The appearance of the banded hare-wallaby and northern nail-tail wallaby in the Pilbara region at this time provides independent evidence of the ecological and human responses to a changing climate at the end of the last Ice Age. Traditional morphometrics provides an accessible, inexpensive, and non-destructive tool for paleozoological specimen classification and has substantial potential for applications to other diverse wild faunas.

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Australian Research Council



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