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Patterns of evolutionary transformation in the petrosal bone and some basicranial features in marsupial mammals, with special reference to didelphids

 

M. R. SANCHEZ-VILLAGRA1 and J. R. WIBLE2

 

1Zoologisches Institut, Spezielle Zoologie, Universitat Tubingen, Germany;

2Section of Mammals, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, USA

 

ABSTRACT

Twelve petrosal and four nonpetrosal characters were coded for representatives of all 15 extant genera of Didelphidae and for 16 additional genera of marsupials representing all extant orders. Three basal metatherians were used as outgroup comparison. Histological sections of a subset of the data were examined. An intermediate position of the hiatus Fallopii supports the monophyly of Didelphidae. Several basicranial regions support di€erent clades within the Didelphidae that recent molecular work has identified, including a sister group relationship of Caluromys and Caluromysiops, the monophyly of large opossums, a Lestodelphys-Thylamys clade, and a Lestodelphys Thylamys-Gracilinanus-Marmosops clade. Glironia lacks petrosal and jaw synapomorphies of Caluromys and Caluromysiops. The transverse canal, a synapomorphy of the crown-group Marsupialia, opens as a single foramen anterior to the carotid foramen in most marsupials or as numerous foramina in the pterygoid fossa in diprotodontians. It is either intramural (most marsupials) or simply endocranial (most diprotodontians excluding koalas and wombats). Loss of a deep sulcus in the anterior pole of the promontorium for the internal carotid artery and a rostral tympanic process of the petrosal also characterize the groundplan of the crown group Marsupialia. Pouch-young wombats show a groove in the anterior pole of the petrosal for the internal carotid artery. The absence of a prootic canal foramen in the tympanic side of the petrosal of adults supports the monophyly of Australidelphia. Some pouch-young marsupials possess a prootic canal that is later lost in ontogeny. A rather flat promontorium and a crest running medio-distally in the middle of the promontorium characterize Macropodidae.

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