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Nuclear gene sequences provide evidence for the monophyly of australidelphian marsupials

Heather Amrine-Madsen,a,b Mark Scally,c,d Michael Westerman,e Michael J. Stanhope,b,d, Carey Krajewski,e,f and Mark S. Springera,c,*

aGraduate Group in Genetics, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA

b Bioinformatics Department, GlaxoSmithKline, 1250 S. Collegeville Rd., Collegeville, PA 19426, USA

cDepartment of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA

d Queen’s University, Belfast, UK

eLaTrobe University, Bundoora, Vic., Australia, 3086

fDepartment of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA


Relationships among the seven extant orders of marsupials remain poorly understood. Most classifications recognize a fundamental split between Ameridelphia, which contains the American orders Didelphimorphia and Paucituberculata, and Australidelphia, which contains four Australasian orders (Dasyuromorphia, Diprotodontia, Notoryctemorphia, and Peramelina) and the South American order Microbiotheria, represented by Dromiciops gliroides. Ameridelphia and Australidelphia are each supported by key morphological characters with dichotomous character states. To date, molecular studies indexing all marsupial orders have reported inconclusive results. However, several studies have suggested that Dromiciops is nested within Australidelphia. This result has important implications for understanding the biogeographic history of living marsupials. To address questions in higher-level marsupial systematics, we sequenced portions of five nuclear genes (Apolipoprotein B gene; Breast and Ovarian cancer susceptibility gene 1; Recombination activating gene 1; Interphotoreceptor retinoid binding protein gene; and von Willebrand factor gene) for representatives of all orders of marsupials, as well as placental outgroups. The resulting 6.4kb concatenation was analyzed using maximum parsimony, distance methods, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian methods. Kishino and Hasegawa (1989) tests were used to examine a priori hypotheses. All analyses provided robust support for the monophyly of Australidelphia (bootstrap support¼99–100%; posterior probability¼1.00). Ameridelphia received much lower support, although this clade was not rejected in statistical tests. Within Diprotodontia, both Vombatiformes and Phalangeriformes were supported at the 100% bootstrap level and with posterior probabilities of 1.00.