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Parma Wallaby (Macropus parma) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Parma Wallaby Macropus parma

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

  • Species - reported by Waterhouse in 1846
    • Subspecies - none
    • Hybrids have been produced in managed care with Macropus dorsalis and M. eugenii (Close & Lowry 1990)
  • Common name- parma wallaby (Maynes 2008; Warburton 2005)
    • Parma - Australian Aboriginal word for this species
    • Wallaby - from Eora word wollabi, used by Aboriginal people in Sydney region for brush-tailed rock wallaby, later by European settlers for small macropods (Jackson & Vernes 2011)
    • Also known as: white-fronted wallaby, white-throated wallaby, white-throated pademelon; small brown wallaby (on Kawau Island, New Zealand)
  • Scientific name - Macropus parma ("parma long-foot") (Gove 1971)
    • Macropus - from Greek makros for "long" + Greek pod or pous for "foot"
    • Parma - Australian Aboriginal word for this species
    • Recent synonyms: Thylogale parma, Wallabia parma, Protemnodon parma (Dawson & Flannery 1985); Notamacropus parma (Wilson and Mittermeier 2015)

Evolutionary History

  • Emergence of the macropods (reviewed in Archer et al. 1999 and Jackson & Vernes 2011)
    • Ancestors of modern macropods arose from possum-like ancestors in Australia
      • Genetic studies suggest the split occurred about 40 million years ago
    • Earliest known kangaroo fossils 26-23 million years old (late Oligocene)
      • Small "rat kangaroos" - lived in warm rainforests
    • Climate change about 33-23 million years ago influenced evolution of macropods
      • Australia cooled and dried as it drifted northward
      • Led to diversification of leathery-leaved plants, such as Eucalyptus
      • This provided abundant food for ground-dwelling browsers and grazers
  • Diversification of the macropods (reviewed in Archer et al. 1999 and Jackson & Vernes 2011)
    • First grasslands appeared by about 17 million years ago
    • Large, ground-dwelling, grazing macropods appeared
      • Arboreal and browsing adaptations lost
    • Macropodids co-evolved with a range of predators
      • Fossils of small Macropus species found with thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), a dingo-sized carnivore
      • Selection pressure led to adaptations that enabled detection and avoidance of predators
    • Explosion of new macropod species (adaptive radiation) began about 5 million years ago
  • Macropus parma
    • In genus Macropus, subgenus Notamacropus - 8 extant (living) and 2 extinct species of wallabies (Dawson & Flannery 1985)
    • Closest relative according to phylogenetic studies: black-striped wallaby, Macropus dorsalis (Cardillo et al. 2004)

Cultural History

  • Australian Aboriginal cultures (Jarman & Coulson 1989; Jackson & Vernes 2011)
    • Aborigines arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago
    • Macropods of all sizes probably the major food source of early aboriginal Australians
    • Variety of hunting strategies
      • Trapping and driving are successful methods used to hunt smaller wallabies
      • Fire commonly used to drive smaller species from densely wooded areas
    • Macropods also source of food, clothing, rugs, bags, supplies, cord, and ornaments
  • European settlers (Jackson & Vernes 2011)
    • Europeans began exploring coastlines of Australia in 16th century
    • Earliest confirmed report of an Australian macropod made by the Dutch in 1629
      • Early settlers recorded many observations of macropods after 1788
    • Parma wallaby first identified by naturalist John Gould around 1840 (Domico 1993)
      • Identified from specimens provided by Gould's chief collector, naturalist and explorer John Gilbert
      • Parma wallaby plate in The Mammals of Australia, John Gould, 1863
    • Europeans hunted mainly larger species of macropods but also parma wallabies (Jarman & Coulson 1989)
  • Disappearance and rediscovery of the parma wallaby (Wodzicki & Flux 1971)
    • 1957 - parma wallabies known only from 12 museum specimens
      • Thought to have disappeared from mainland Australia by 1932
    • 1965 - rediscovered on Kawau Island, New Zealand
      • In 1870s, New Zealand's first governor, Sir George Grey, stocked grounds of his Kawau Island estate with parma and other wallabies
      • The parma wallaby flourished, became a feral population on the island
      • Considered by locals to be a threat to pine plantations, shot in large numbers (as many as 200 at a time)
    • 1966-1970 - measures undertaken to preserve the species
      • 384 parma wallabies captured live and shipped to zoo worldwide
        • Breeding colonies established
        • Current North American captive parma wallaby population is descended from some of these animals (Ivy et al. 2009)
      • Given official protection by New Zealand government in 1968, pest control measures suspended
    • 1967: rediscovered on Australian mainland
      • Live parma wallaby captured around 1967 near Gosford, New South Wales
      • Researchers subsequently found multiple populations in eastern New South Wales


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Diprotodontia - koalas, wombats, possums, macropods (kangaroos, tree kangaroos, wallaroos, etc.)

Family: Macropodidae - kangaroos, wallabies

Genus: Macropus

Species: Macropus parma - Parma wallaby

Source: Integrated Taxonomic Information System (2016)

Name Origins

Close up of a parma wallaby

The name "parma" comes from the Aboriginal word for this species.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Archer et al. (1999)
Cardillo et al. (2004)
Close & Lowry (1990)
Dawson & Flannery (1985)
Domico (1993)
Gove (1971)
ITIS (2016)
Ivy et al. (2009)
Jackson & Vernes (2011)
Jarman & Coulson (1989)
Martin (2006)
Maynes (2008)
Prideaux & Warburton (2010)
Waterhouse (1846)
Wilson and Mittermeier (2015)
Wodzicki & Flux (1971)

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