Marsupial relationships and a timeline for marsupial radiation in South Gondwana

Maria Nilsson, Ulfur Arnason, PBS Spencer, Axel Janke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent marsupials include about 280 species divided into 18 families and seven orders. Approximately 200 species live in Australia/New Guinea. The remaining species inhabit South America with some of these secondarily ranging into North America. In this study, we examine marsupial relationships and estimate their divergences times using complete mitochondrial (mt) genomes. The sampling, which includes nine new mtDNAs and a total number of 19 marsupial genomes, encompasses all extant orders and 14 families. The analysis identified a basal split between Didelphimorphia and remaining orders about 69 million years before present (MYBP), while other ordinal divergences were placed in Tertiary times. The monotypic South American order Microbiotheria (Dromiciops gliroides, Monito del Monte) was solidly nested among its Australian counterparts. The results suggest that marsupials colonized Australia twice from Antarctica/South America and that the divergence between Microbiotheria and its Australian relatives coincided with the geological separation of Antarctica and Australia. Within Australia itself. several of the deepest divergences were estimated to have taken place close to the Eocene/Oligocene transition. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-196
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biological Sciences

Free keywords

  • dromiciops
  • notoryctes
  • marsupial evolution
  • south Gondwana


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