Natalie Warburton  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.

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Dr Natalie Warburton
PhD (UWA), GradDipEd (Murd.), BSc Hons (Zoology, UWA), ATCL, SFHEA

Associate Professor - Anatomy

About me

I graduated with a BSc with Honours in Zoology from The University of Western Australia (1998), and then completed a PhD in Zoology at UWA entitled ‘The functional morphology and evolution of marsupial moles’ (2004).

My research interests focus on the comparative anatomy, functional morphology and evolution of vertebrates, particularly (but not limited to) Australian marsupials. My work on marsupials has the broad aims to 1) broaden knowledge of the anatomy and biology of marsupials; 2) investigate the vastly understudied “other 95%” of the marsupial body: the post-cranium; 3) Resolve the respective roles of extrinsic versus intrinsic drivers shaping vertebrate evolution in Australia compared with the vastly better understood mammal radiations on other continents.

I teach veterinary and comparative anatomy  in the Veterinary, Biomedical and Animal Science courses. I have completed a Graduate Diploma of Education at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia (2002).

I hold an adjunct appointment as Research Associate, Department of Earth and Planetary Science,  Western Australian Museum.

Teaching area

My teaching is centred around veterinary and comparative anatomy, and vertebrate evolution. I coordinate ANS102 Introduction to the Animal Body and BMS213 Forensic Anatomy and Anthropology, and contribute lectures and laboratory classes to BMS107 Animal Physiology, VET212 Veterinary anatomy II, VET240 Veterinary anatomy I, VET243 Veterinary Physiology II, BMS101 Introduction to the Human Body, ANS253 Physiology and Anatomy of Farm Animals.

There is strong overlap between my teaching and research fields and I have a particular interest in training research students.  My Honours students, past and present are:

Meg LANE (2014) Sexual selection and sperm competition in western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus). Supervisors: Dr N. Warburton, Dr P. Bateman, A/Prof P. Fleming, A/Prof A. Barnes.

Dale NELSON (2013; Flinders University) Functional significance in the development of macropodid nasal morphology. Supervisors: Dr G. Prideaux, Dr N. Warburton.

Carmen Jing Wen WONG (2011-2012). An investigation into hindlimb muscle populations with different rates of synapse maturation in the western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus). Supervisors: Dr S. Etherington, Dr N. Warburton, Dr N. Stephens.

Nicole CHENG (2011) Age related changes in the mineral composition of bone. Supervisors: Dr N. Warburton, Assoc. Prof. M. Cake.

Ivan Hee Kean HONG (2010-2011). Neuromuscular junction development in the western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus). Supervisors: Dr S. Etherington, Dr N. Warburton, Dr N. Stephens.

Jesse FORBES-HARPER (2010) Ecomorphology of foxes in south-west Western Australia. Supervisors: Dr N. Warburton, Dr T. Fleming, Dr P. Adams

Research areas

I am an active researcher. My research work provides major and original contributions to knowledge on comparative anatomy, functional morphology and evolution of vertebrates.

Much of my work has a focus on marsupials, with appropriate comparisons to convergences with specialised groups of placental mammals from various phylogenetic groups. Thus, my research presents morphology in the context of providing evidence of biological patterns with developmental and evolutionary origins. Previous and ongoing morphological projects have focused on a range of specialised marsupial groups including marsupial moles (Notoryctidae), macropods (Macropodidae), bandicoots (Peramelidae) and carnivorous marsupials (Dasyuridae). I provide a significant contribution to the field of marsupial evolution and palaeoecology, through my detailed familiarity with a wide range of anatomical literature and a demonstrated ability to reinterpret very old literature in relation to the current knowledge of functional, developmental and evolutionary systems.

Current projects include investigations of:

  • sexual selection and sperm competition in kangaroos
  • phylogenetic comparisons of limb anatomy in marsupials
  • ecomorphology of fossil marsupials from the Nullabor Cave deposits
  • the evolution and development of the neuromuscular junction in marsupials
  • sexual maturation of the vomeronasal organ in eusocial mole-rats
  • the ecomorphology of foxes in the south west of Western Australia



Current projects

I have ongoing research projects in the following areas:

Descriptive and comparative anatomy of marsupials, including tree-kangaroos, bandicoots, bilbies and dasyurids.

Paleoecology and Evolution of Australian Marsupials.
Co-workers: Dr Gavin Prideaux, Flinders Uni and WA Museum

Kangaroos: sexual selection and sperm competition in kangaroos
Co-workers: Dr Bill Bateman, A/Prof Trish Fleming, A/Prof Anne Barnes, A/Prof David Miller

Ontogenetic and evolutionary patterns of neuromuscular junction development in marsupials.
Co-workers: Dr Sarah Etherington, Dr Nahiid Stephens, Honours students

Morphology of the vomeronasal organ of Damaraland mole rats.
Co-workers: A/Prof David Miller, A/Prof Trish Fleming, Dr Sarah Etherington

Ecomorphology of foxes in south-west Western Australia.
Co-workers: A/Prof Trish Fleming, Dr Peter Adams

Functional Morphology of the Kangaroo Spine.
Co-workers: A/Prof Martin Cake, Prof. Nick Milne (UWA), PhD student Rebekah Dawson

Awards and grants

Awards and Recognition

2017 Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)

2017 LEAD Senior Fellow of the Murdoch LEAD Academy

2016 Flinders University Visiting Researchers Funding Scheme – Distinguished researcher ($2336)

2015 Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence

2014 Veterinary and Life Sciences Learning and Teaching award: Best Teaching Survey

Successful Grant Applications

2019 – 2021 ARC Discovery Project (DP190103636 $445,000 Flinders University) G. Prideaux, M. Lee, M. Phillips, N. Warburton, A. Chinsamy-Turan, C. McGowan. “Illuminating the evolutionary history of Australia’s most iconic animals.”

2018 VLS Equipment Grant  for Image Processing Workstation for VLS Anatomy Department $7000

2017-2020 Australia and Pacific Science Foundation grant of $40,680: N. Warburton and G. Prideaux “Illuminating the unanticipated diversity of tree-climbing kangaroos in Australia and New Guinea in the recent geological past”

2014 Strategic Research Funds, Murdoch University: N. Warburton, B. Bateman, T. Fleming, A. Barnes, D. Miller “Sexual selection and sperm competition in kangaroos”

2011 McCusker Charitable Foundation Early Career Researcher Support: N Warburton, S Etherington “Neuromuscular junction development in Australian marsupials.”

2010 ARC Discovery Grant: Dr Gavin Prideaux (Adel.), Prof. Peter Ungar (USA), Anthony Olejniczak (Spain), Natalie Warburton (Murdoch),  Alistair Evans (Melbourne), Linda Ayliffe (Canberra), Dr Peter Murray (Museum of Central Australia), Prof. Jon Woodhead (Melbourne) “Evolution in tooth and claw: exploring the relationship between the radiation of marsupial herbivores and late Cenozoic climate change”

2009 Strategic Research Funds, Murdoch University: Natalie Warburton Martin Cake. “Comparative and functional anatomy of the kangaroo cervical spine.”

2009 Strategic Research Funds, Murdoch University: David Miller; Trish Fleming; Natalie Warburton; Sarah Etherington. “Improving the preliminary data set on mole-rat physiology for a future ARC Discovery proposal.”


Events and speaking engagements

Invited lectures and science communication public profile

  • Guest presenter for CSIRO Double Helix Science Club events (July 2011).
  • Invited lecture ‘Kangaroo evolution and environmental change’ at the Evolution Symposium help by the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria (December, 2010).
  • Regular invitations to present guest lectures at Murdoch University, The University of Western Australia, and the Western Australian Museum in research seminar series.
  • In March 2009 I was an invited guest scientist for ‘Palaeontology Week’, run and hosted by the South Australian Museum.

Professional and community service

Adjunct appointments

Since my appointment in 2007 I have developed and maintained a professional relationship with the Western Australian Museum and The University of Western Australia through the following ongoing adjunct appointments:

  • Research Associate, Department of Earth and Planetary Science,  Western Australian Museum (since 2005)
  • Adjunct Lecturer, School of Animal Biology, The University of Western Australia (2006-2012)

Consulting zoologist

  • Marsupial anatomy advice for post-mortem examinations
    • January 2011 – Macropod cardiac anatomy
  • Specialist consult on kangaroo anatomy and evolution,  National Geographic (June 2011)
  • September 2010 I was approached by the documentary production company Windfall Films (UK), to provide expert advice as part of a film on kangaroo anatomy and evolution, ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’.
  • In 2009 I was sought out as an expert in marsupial anatomy by artists preparing paleontological exhibitions at Museum of Victoria.

Professional society memberships and involvement

I am an active member of the following scholarly organisations:

  • The Australian Mammal Society
  • The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (USA)
  • The Royal Society of Western Australia (RSWA)
  • Australian Science Communicators (ASC)

Locally, the RSWA and ASC have significant involvement with science communication to the wider community. They also develop and debate significant issues of science in Australia.

2011 Organising committee for the biennial Conference of Australasian Vertebrate Evolution Palaeontology and Systematics (CAVEPS) to be help in Perth. Principle roles – Organising and coordinating public programs associated with the conference; ‘meet-the-scientist’ at Scitech, and public lecture.

Doctoral and masters supervisions

I have successfully supervised a number of students in projects for Honours, Independent Study Contracts (ISC), VBS Summer Scholarships and International student research trainee placements.

Completed and current (*) PhD research student supervision


Year Student and Title Institution
2015 Dawson, R.  Functional morphology of the kangaroo tail


2015* Lane, M.  Morpho-functional adaptations for digging in Australian marsupials


Murdoch Uni.
2016* Tay, N. Escape Locomotion and behaviour in Marsupials Murdoch Uni.




  • Warburton, N., Dawson, R., (2015),Musculoskeletal anatomy and adaptations,In: Marsupials and Monotremes - Enigmatic Mammals, Nova Science Publishers, pages 53 to 84.
  • Warburton, N., Prideaux, G., (2010),Functional pedal morphology of the extinct tree-kangaroo Bohra (Diprotodontia: Macropodidae),In: Macropods: The Biology of Kangaroos, Wallabies and Rat-Kangaroos, CSIRO PUBLISHING, pages 137 to 151.


  • Tay, N., Fleming, P., Warburton, N., Moseby, K., (2021), Predator exposure enhances the escape behaviour of a small marsupial, the burrowing bettong, Animal Behaviour, 175, , pages 145 - 156.
  • Warburton, N., (2021), Ontogenetic growth and the development of a unique fibrocartilage entheses in Macropus fuliginosus, Zoology, 144, , pages 125860 -.
  • Martin, M., Travouillon, K., Fleming, P., Warburton, N., (2020), Review of the methods used for calculating Physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) for ecological questions, Journal of Morphology, 281, 7, pages 778 - 789.
  • Martin, M., Warburton, N., Travouillon, K., Fleming, P., (2019), Mechanical similarity across ontogeny of digging muscles in an Australian marsupial (Isoodon fusciventer), Journal of Morphology, 280, 3, pages 423 - 435.
  • Warburton, N., Travouillon, K., Camens, A., (2019), Skeletal atlas of the Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), Palaeontologia Electronica, 22.2.29A, , pages 1 - 56.
  • Martin, M., Travouillon, K., Sherratt, E., Fleming, P., Warburton, N., (2019), Covariation between forelimb muscle anatomy and bone shape in an Australian scratch-digging marsupial: comparison of morphometric methods, Journal of Morphology, 280, 12, pages 1900 - 1915.
  • Warburton, N., Bateman, P., Fleming, P., (2019), Anatomy of the cavernous muscles of the kangaroo penis highlights marsupial-placental dichotomy, Journal of Anatomy: molecular, cellular and experimental morphology, 234, 3, pages 306 - 315.
  • Martin, M., Bateman, P., Auckland, C., Miller, D., Warburton, N., Barnes, A., Fleming, P., (2018), Is there evidence for a trade-off between spermcompetition traits and forelimb musculature in thewestern grey kangaroo?, Linnean Society. Biological Journal, 123, , pages 431 - 444.
  • Warburton, N., Marchal, C., (2017), Forelimb Myology of Carnivorous Marsupials (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae): Implications for the Ancestral Body Plan of the Australidelphia, Anatomical Record, 300, 9, pages 1589 - 1608.
  • Nelson, D., Warburton, N., Prideaux, G., (2017), The anterior nasal region in the Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) suggests adaptation for thermoregulation and water conservation, Journal of Zoology, 303, 4, pages 301 - 310.
  • Forbes-Harper, J., Crawford, H., Dundas, S., Warburton, N., Adams, P., Bateman, P., Calver, M., Fleming, P., (2017), Diet and bite force in red foxes: ontogenetic and sex differences in an invasive carnivore, Journal of Zoology, 303, , pages 54 - 63.
  • Etherington, S., Hong, I., Wong, C., Stephens, N., Warburton, N., (2016), Heterochronic neuromuscular junction development in an Australian marsupial (Macropus fuliginosus), Journal of Zoology, 300, 1, pages 27 - 35.
  • Miller, A., Cake, M., Warburton, N., (2016), The fibular meniscus of the kangaroo as an adaptation against external tibial rotation during saltatorial locomotion, Journal of Anatomy: molecular, cellular and experimental morphology, 231, 6, pages 931 - 938.
  • Warburton, N., Travouillon, K., (2016), The biology and palaeontology of the Peramelemorphia: a review of current knowledge and future research directions, Australian Journal of Zoology, 64, 3, pages 151 - 181.
  • Warburton, N., Yakovleff, M., Leonard, V., Cailleau, C., (2015), Hind limb myology of the southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) and greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) (Marsupialia:Peramelemorphia), Australian Journal of Zoology, 63, 3, pages 147 - 162.
  • Dawson, R., Warburton, N., Richards, H., Milne, N., (2015), Walking on five legs: investigating tail use during slow gait in kangaroos and wallabies, Australian Journal of Zoology, 63, 3, pages 192 - 200.
  • Warburton, N., Yakovleff, M., Leonard, V., Cailleau, C., (2015), Hind limb muscular anatomy of the southern brown bandicoot Isoodon obesulus and greater bilby Macrotis lagotis (Marsupialia: Peramelemorphia), Australian Journal of Zoology, 63, 3, pages 147 - 162.
  • Dawson, R., Milne, N., Warburton, N., (2014), Muscular anatomy of the tail of the western grey kangaroo, Macropus fuliginosus, Australian Journal of Zoology, 62, 2, pages 166 - 174.
  • Warburton, N., (2014), Relicts, reproduction and reintroductions - a century of marsupial research in Western Australia, Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 97, , pages 65 - 85.
  • Warburton, N., Volet, S., (2013), Enhancing self-directed learning through a content quiz group learning assignment, Active Learning in Higher Education: the journal of the institute for Learning and Teaching, 14, 1, pages 9 - 22.
  • Warburton, N., Gregoire, L., Jacques, S., Flandrin, C., (2013), Adaptations for digging in the forelimb muscle anatomyof the southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus)and bilby (Macrotis lagotis), Australian Journal of Zoology, 61, 5, pages 402 - 419.
  • Warburton, N., Bateman, P., Fleming, P., (2013), Sexual selection on forelimb muscles of western greykangaroos (Skippy was clearly a female), Linnean Society. Biological Journal, 109, 4, pages 923 - 931.
  • Warburton, N., (2012), Anatomical adaptations of the hind limb musculature of tree-kangaroos for arboreal locomotion (Marsupialia: Macropodinae), Australian Journal of Zoology, 60, 4, pages 246 - 258.
  • Warburton, N., Harvey, K., Prideaux, G., O'Shea, J., (2011), Functional morphology of the forelimb of living and extinct tree-kangaroos (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), Journal of Morphology, 272, 10, pages 1230 - 1244.
  • Prideaux, G., Warburton, N., (2010), An osteology-based appraisal of the phylogeny and evolution of kangaroos and wallabies (Macropodidae: Marsupialia), Linnean Society. Zoological Journal: an international journal, 159, 4, pages 954 - 987.
  • Harvey, K., Warburton, N., (2010), Forelimb musculature of kangaroos with particular emphasis on the tammar wallaby Macropus eugenii (Desmarest, 1817), Australian Mammalogy, 32, 1, pages 1 - 9.
  • Warburton, N., Prideaux, G., (2009), Bohra nullabora sp. nov., a second tree-kangaroo (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) from the Pleistocene of the Nullarbor Plain, Western Australia., Records of the Western Australian Museum, 25, , pages 165 - 179.
  • Warburton, N., (2009), Comparative jaw muscle anatomy in kangaroos, wallabies and rat-kangaroos (Marsupialia: Macropodoidea), Anatomical Record, 292, , pages 875 - 884.
  • Prideaux, G., Warburton, N., (2008), A new Pleistocene tree-kangaroo (Diprotodontia: Macropodidae) from the Nullarbor Plain of south-central Australia, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28, 2, pages 463 - 478.
  • Prideaux, G., Warburton, N., (2007), An arid-adapted middle Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from south-central Australia, Nature, 445, , pages 422 - 425.
  • Warburton, N., (2006), Functional morphology of marsupial moles (Marsupialia, Notoryctidae), Verhandlungen des Naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Hamburg, 42, , pages 39 - 149.
  • Warburton, N., Wood, C., Lloyd, C., Song, S., Withers, P., (2003), The 3-dimensional anatomy of the North-Western Marsupial Mole (Notoryctes caurinus Thomas 1920) using computed tomography, X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging, Records of the Western Australian Museum, 22, , pages 1 - 7.