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RE: Purple Paleo Prose Down Under



John Scanlon wrote:

In this case, the skull in the photo is *Ekaltadeta ima* (Macropodoidea,
Hypsiprymnodontidae, Propleopinae) which is roughly a giant late Oligocene
to Miocene version of the smallest extant kangaroo species, *Hypsiprymnodon
moschatus*.  The latter has relatively primitive hind feet, does not hop
bipedally, and is largely insectivorous/carnivorous.

Just to reinforce John's point, _Hypsiprymnodon_ is a "kangaroo" only in the broadest sense, insofar as it is a macropod (i.e., it belongs to the Macropodoidea or Macropodiformes). The common name of _Hypsiprymnodon moschatus_is the Musky rat-kangaroo, and in external appearance it is as much rat as it is kangaroo. There is good evidence (molecular- and morphological-based) that _Hypsiprymnodon_ is the most basal of all extant macropods.


As for the dinosaurs in the picture (i.e. the dromornithid birds), the idea
that they were carnivorous is not taken very seriously by many folks; Steve
Wroe, who came up with it (and blames Walter Boles for coining 'Demon Duck
of Doom'), says he's not at all committed to the idea.  Certainly no-one
else is.

The 'Demon Duck of Doom' label also appears to be a reference to the putative anseriform affinities of dromornithids. I suspect that it's also a way of emphasizing that dromornithids are NOT ratites, despite the fact that they were large terrestrial flightless birds. However, modern Anseriformes contain more than just ducks, geese, and swans - this "order" also includes the screamers, which are less familiar to most people. Those researchers that put dromornithids in the Anseriformes also regard the screamers (Anhimidae) as being closest (both phylogenetically and ecologically) to dromornithids. Screamers are found only in South America; but I have also been told that there is evidence that the modern magpie-goose (_Anseranas_) of Australia may be more closely related to the screamers than to the Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans).


Cheers

Tim