Named By: Richard Owen - 1873.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Marsupiala, Diprotodontia, Macropodidae, Sthenurinae.
Species: S. andersoni, S. atlas, S. browneorum, S. gilli, S. maddocki, S. occidentalis, S. oreas, S. orientalis, S. pales, S. stirlingi, S. tindalei.
Size: 3 meters long.
Known locations: Australia.
Time period: Zanclean of the Pliocene through to the end of the Tarantian of the Pleistocene.
Fossil representation: Several specimens.
was a large kangaroo, similar to the better known Procoptodon.
Analysis of Sthenurus fossil locations combined
with carbon dating has
yielded the conclusion that Sthenurus was a
generalist herbivore that
adapted to whatever plants were available. This is because analysis
shoes that at some times and locations Sthenurus
would be a browser of
vegetation and at others a grazer of grass, but most importantly
these times form up a mixed sequence that does not support the
progression from one kind of foraging to another. Additionally there
are other deposits that hint that Sthenurus browsed
and grazed at the
Part of this dietary adaptability came from the teeth which had a thick covering of enamel. Although better suited for tougher vegetation, these teeth would have worked perfectly fine upon softer plants too. As a kangaroo Sthenurus would have also been flexible enough to get down low for grazing, or rising up on its legs to reach vegetation that was beyond the reach of smaller herbivores. When doing so Sthenurus may have relied more upon its tail to act a makeshift ‘third leg’ since while the tail was shorter than in some kangaroos, it was especially robust in its makeup. This might have been to compensate for the extra weight of the body of Sthenurus which overall also seems to have been of a strongly robust build. Sthenurus also possessed a degree of stereoscopic vision which would have helped it with depth perception (the ability to judge distances), something that would help it reach out at branches with its arms.
One difference between Sthenurus and the modern red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is that the feet of Sthenurus were formed from a single (fourth) toe, rather than the three toes of the red kangaroo. This single toe ended in a nail that was more like a hoof, and was probably formed because a single toe would have been better able to support the extra weight of the larger body, especially when Sthenurus was travelling at speed. These enlarged single toes can also be seen on other large kangaroos like the aforementioned Procoptodon.