Discriminating Between Macropod Postcrania in Australian Zooarchaeology: A Morphometric Approach
School of Social Science, University of Queensland
Australasian marsupials exhibit a high degree of species diversification, having evolved largely in the absence of other mammalian fauna, to occupy a wide range of ecological niches. The uniqueness and diversity of Australasia’s marsupials poses a significant challenge for zooarchaeologists aiming to speciate animal remains. Some marsupial families, such as macropods, include taxa whose skeletal remains are morphologically very similar however the animals may exhibit different behaviours and inhabit different environments. Variation in animal habitat and behaviour may have significant implications for interpretations of Indigenous hunting strategies, seasonality, or environmental change in the past. High resolution taxonomic identification of macropods can be undertaken using teeth, however little work has yet been undertaken to determine how, and to what extent, morphologically similar macropods may be separated via their postcranial skeletal remains. As postcranial skeletal remains comprise a significant proportion of most faunal assemblages this remains a key methodological challenge for zooarchaeologists working in Australia.
Geometric morphometrics provides an opportunity to examine bone shape variation between taxa in high resolution. Worldwide, geometric morphometrics is a tool regularly used by zooarchaeologists. Yet in Australia, geometric morphometric techniques have largely only been taken up in the fields of evolutionary biology and systematics. This poster presents the preliminary results of both traditional and geometric morphometric analysis of selected postcranial elements from a range of macropods with the aim of developing quantitative methods of discriminating between similar taxa.