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
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). It was probably around 1m in length (Flannery et al., 2022). Johnson (2006) gave its estimated body mass as 30kg, and Augee et al. (2006) estimated it at ~20-30kg. 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:
Glauert, Ludwig. (1914). The Mammoth Cave (continued). Records of the Western Australian Museum 1(3): 244-251.
Augee, M. L., Gooden, B. and Musser, A. (2006). Echidna: Extraordinary Egg-Laying Mammal. CSIRO Publishing, Sydney. 136 pp.
Glauert, Ludwig. (1948). The cave fossils of the South-West. Western Australian Naturalist 1: 100-104.
Flannery, Timothy F., Rich, Thomas H., Vickers-Rich, Patricia, Ziegler, Tim, Veatch, Grace and Helgen, Kristofer M. (2022). A review of monotreme (Monotremata) evolution. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology 46(1): 3-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/03115518.2022.2025900
Johnson, Chris. (2006). Australia's Mammal Extinctions: A 50,000 year history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Long, John, Archer, Michael, Flannery, Timothy F. and Hand, S. (2002). Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea: One Hundred Million Years of Evolution. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. [p. 45-47]
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McNamara, Ken and Murray, Peter. (2010). Prehistoric Mammals of Western Australia. Welshpool, WA: Western Australian Museum. 107 pp.
Merrilees, D. (1968). South-western Australian occurrences of Sthenurus (Marsupialia, Macropodidae), including Sthenurus brownei sp. novo. J. Proc. R: Soc. West. Aust. 50: 65-79.
Murray, P. F. (1978). Late Cenozoic monotreme anteaters. Australian Zoologist 20(1): 29-55.
Murray, P. F. (1984). Extinctions downunder: a bestiary of extinct Australian late Pleistocene monotremes and marsupials, pp. 600-628. In: Martin, P. S. and Klein, R. G. (eds.). Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution. Tuscon, Arizona: University of Arizona Press.
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Roberts R., Flannery T., Ayliffe L., Yoshida H., Olley J., Prideaux G., Laslett G., Baynes A., Smith M., Jones R.I., et al. 2001 New ages for the last Australian megafauna: Continent-wide extinction about 46,000 years ago. Science 292, 1888-1892.
Smith F.A., Lyons S.K., Ernest S.K.M., Jones K.E., Kaufman D.M., Dayan T., Marquet P.A., Brown J.H., Haskell J.P. 2003. Body mass of late Quaternary mammals. Ecology 84(12), 3403-3403.