Australian marsupial species identification
Linzi Wilson-Wilde a,*, Janette Norman b,e, James Robertson c,d, Stephen Sarre d, Arthur Georges d
a ANZPAA National Institute of Forensic Science, Victoria, Australia
b Museum Victoria, Victoria, Australia
c Australian Federal Police, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
d University of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
e Melbourne University, Victoria, Australia
Wildlife crime, the illegal trade in animals and animal products, is a growing concern and valued at up to US$20 billion globally per year. Australia is often targeted for its unique fauna, proximity to South East Asia and porous borders. Marsupials of the order Diprotodontia (including koala, wombats, possums, gliders, kangaroos) are sometimes targeted for their skin, meat and for the pet trade. However, species identification for forensic purposes must be underpinned by robust phylogenetic information. A Diprotodont phylogeny containing a large number of taxa generated from nuclear and mitochondrial data has not yet been constructed. Here the mitochondrial (COI and ND2) and nuclear markers (APOB, IRBP and GAPD) are combined to create a more robust phylogeny to underpin a species identification method for the marsupial order Diprotodontia. Mitochondrial markers were combined with nuclear markers to amplify 27 genera of Diprotodontia. Data was analysed using a likelihood method. The combined data set resolved two suborders: Vombatiformes and Phalangeriformes. Phalangeriformes was subsequently split into two clades. The first clade contained the Macropodiformes and Burramyidae. The second clade contained Petauridae, grouping with Phalangeroidea. Of the markers tested, ND2 provided the greatest level of diagnostic accuracy and could be used as a forensic species identification tool for Diprotodonts, with appropriate validation.