New DNA data from a transthyretin nuclear intron suggest an Oligocene to Miocene diversification of living South America opossums (Marsupialia: Didelphidae)

Cynthia Steiner, Marie-Ka Tilak, Emmanuel J P Douzery, François M Catzeflis
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 2005, 35 (2): 363-79
Phylogenetic relationships of 19 species of didelphid marsupials were studied using two nuclear markers, the non-coding transthyretin intron 1 (TTR) and the coding interphotoreceptor retinoid binding protein exon 1 (IRBP), and two mitochondrial genes, the protein-coding cytochrome b (cyt-b) and the structural 12S ribosomal DNA (12S rDNA). Evolutionary dynamics of these four markers were compared to each other, revealing the appropriate properties presented by TTR intron 1 together with its well supported and resolved phylogenetic signal. Nuclear markers supported the monophyly of medium and large-sized opossums Metachirus+(Chironectes, Lutreolina, Didelphis, Philander), and the paraphyly of mouse-sized opossums, with the genera Gracilinanus, Thylamys, and Marmosops as a sister group to medium and large-sized didelphids. Conflicting branching patterns between mitochondrial and nuclear data involved the phylogenetic position of Marmosa-Micoureus-Monodelphis relative to other mouse-sized opossums. Nuclear phylogenetic inferences among genera were confirmed by the presence of synapomorphic indels observed in TTR intron 1. A Bayesian relaxed molecular clock dating of didelphid evolution using nuclear markers estimated their origin in the Middle Eocene (39.8 million years ago), with subsequent diversification during the Oligocene (Deseadan) and Miocene.

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