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Relationships among Families of Diprotodontia (Marsupialia) and the Phylogenetic Position of the Autapomorphic Honey Possum (Tarsipes rostratus)

John R. Kavanagh,1 Angela Burk-Herrick,1 Mike Westerman,2 and Mark S. Springer1,3

1Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, California.

2Department of Genetics and Human Variation, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

3To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA. E-mail:


The Australasian marsupial order Diprotodontia includes ten extant families that are grouped into the suborders Vombatiformes (koalas and wombats), Macropodiformes (kangaroos and allies), and Phalangeriformes (possums and gliders). We investigated interfamilial relationships using mitochondrial 12S rRNA, valine tRNA, and 16S rRNA gene sequences. Our results support the monophyly of both Vombatiformes and Macropodiformes, but not Phalangeriformes. Among possums and gliders, there was strong support for a petauroid clade that includes Pseudocheiridae (ringtail possums), Petauridae (sugar glider, striped possums), Acrobatidae (feathertail possums), and the monotypic family Tarsipedidae, which is represented by the highly specialized and autapomorphic honey possum (Tarsipes rostratus). Other prior hypotheses for the phylogenetic placement of the honey possum were rejected by statistical tests. The inclusion of the honey possum within Petauroidea suggests that derived ultrastructural features of Tarsipes’ spermatozoa evolved independently in Tarsipes versus polyprotodont Australasian marsupials.



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  • 2013
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