Murrayglossus hacketti (Glauert, 1914:244)
Hackett's giant echidna, Hackett's echidna
Taxonomy & Nomenclature
Synonym/s: Zaglossus hacketti Glauert, 1914:244 (protonym); Zaglossus hackettii Glauert, 1914:244
Originally placed in the genus Zaglossus (Glauert, 1914), it has long been considered possibly distinct at the generic level (Murray, 1978), and it was transferred to the newly erected monotypic genus Murrayglossus by (Flannery et al., 2022).
Last record c. 38,000 BC?
Western Australia, Australia
Anatomy & Morphology
It was probably around 1m in length (Flannery et al., 2022). Johnson (2006:20) gave its estimated body mass as 30kg, and Augee et al. (2006) estimated it at ~20-30kg.
Biology & Ecology
A species of echidna which was apparently more upright in its posture than living echidnas, on account of its much longer limb bones (Glauert, 1914; Flannery et al., 2022). Its ecology is entirely unknown, forcing scientists to surmise what little they can from the scant information available:
"The ecology of M. hacketti is unknown. Yet it is morphologically distinct from the sympatric Tachyglossus and Megalibgwilia, implying some degree of niche partitioning. Murray (1978b, p. 53) commented that ‘one possible postural correlate of the shortened tibia and relatively long femur [in M. hacketti] is an adaptation to shift the centre of gravity of body mass backwards. This may have allowed mobility of the forelimbs for digging or tearing and may have permitted the animal to easily assume an assisted bipedal stance while feeding on ants or termites nests, a posture sometimes used by both living genera’. We would add that a semi-vertical posture might have also facilitated arboreality in M. hacketti. Surprisingly, Zaglossus bartoni is capable of ascending vertical fences (Flannery 1998). Furthermore, the vicinity of Mammoth Cave is densely forested. Arboreal-nesting termites (Calaby & Gay 1959) could have feasibly provided a viable food source. If correct, then niche separation among tachyglossids potentially involved Tachyglossus as a terrestrial feeder on colonial invertebrates, Megalibgwilia as a terrestrial feeder on large soil invertebrates (e.g., scarab beetle larvae: see Murray 1978b), and M. hacketti as a scansorial feeder on arboreal, colonial invertebrates."
(Flannery et al., 2022)
Only known from fragmentary remains. All known material is believed to be in the WA Museum Boola Bardip's collection.
Holotype: WAM 60.10.1 "atlas vertebra, the clavicles and episternum, the pelvic girdle, two femora, a tibia and a radius" (Glauert, 1914)
Original scientific description:
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