Family-level relationships among the Australasian marsupial ‘‘herbivores’’ (Diprotodontia: Koala, wombats, kangaroos and possums)
Matthew J. Phillips a,b,*, Renae C. Pratt a
a Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
b Centre for Macroevolution and Macroecology, School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
The marsupial order Diprotodontia includes 10 extant families, which occupy all terrestrial habitats across Australia and New Guinea and have evolved remarkable dietary and locomotory diversity. Despite considerable attention, the interrelations of these families have for the most part remained elusive. In this study, we separately model mitochondrial RNA and protein-coding sequences in addition to nuclear protein-coding sequences to provide near-complete resolution of diprotodontian family-level phylogeny. We show that alternative topologies inferred in some previous studies are likely to be artifactual, resulting from branch-length and compositional biases. Subordinal groupings resolved herein include Vombatiformes (wombats and koala) and Phalangerida, which in turn comprises Petauroidea (petaurid gliders and striped, feathertail, ringtail and honey possums) and a clade whose plesiomorphic members possess blade-like premolars (phalangerid possums, kangaroos and their allies and most likely, pygmy possums). The topology resolved reveals ecological niche structuring among diprotodontians that has likely been maintained for more than 40 million years.