Phylogenetic analysis of 1.5 Mbp and platypus EST data refute the Marsupionta hypothesis and unequivocally support Monotremata as sister group to Marsupialia/Placentalia

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The extant mammalian groups Monotremata, Marsupialia and Placentalia are, according to the ‘Theria’ hypothesis, traditionally classified into two subclasses. The subclass Prototheria includes the monotremes and subclass Theria marsupials and placental mammals. Based on some morphological and molecular data, an alternative proposition, the Marsupionta hypothesis, favours a sister group relationship between monotremes and marsupials to the exclusion of placental mammals. Phylogenetic analyses of single genes and even multiple gene alignments have not yet been able to conclusively resolve this basal mammalian divergence. We have examined this problem using one data set composed of expressed sequence tags (EST) and another containing 1 510 509 nucleotide (nt) sites from 1358 inferred cDNA genomic sequences. All analyses of the concatenated sequences unambiguously supported the Theria hypothesis. The Marsupionta hypothesis was rejected with high statistical confidence from both data sets. In spite of the strong support for Theria, a non-negligible number of single genes supported either of the two alternative hypotheses. The divergence between monotremes and therian mammals was estimated to have taken place 168–178 Mya, a dating compatible with the fossil record. Considering the long common evolutionary branch of therians, it is surprising that sequence data from many thousand amino acid sites were needed to conclusively resolve their relationship to monotremes. This finding draws attention to other mammalian divergences that have been taken as unequivocally settled based on much smaller alignments. EST data provide a comprehensive random sample of protein coding sequences and an economic way to produce large amounts of data for phylogenetic analysis of species for which genomic sequences are not yet available.


  • Morgan Kullberg
  • Björn Hallström
  • Ulfur Arnason
  • Axel Janke
Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Biologiska vetenskaper
Sidor (från-till)115-127
TidskriftZoologica Scripta
Utgåva nummer2
StatusPublished - 2008
Peer review utfördJa