Cytogenetics meets phylogenetics: A review of karyotype evolution in diprotodontian marsupials

Michael Westerman, Robert W. Meredith, Mark S. Springer

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19 Scopus citations


We have used a combined approach of phylogenetics and cytogenetics to describe karyotype evolution in Diprotodontia. Molecular relationships of diprotodontian marsupials have been clarified using a concatenation of 5 nuclear gene sequences from multiple exemplars of all extant genera. Our well-resolved phylogenetic tree has been used as a basis for understanding chromosome evolution both within this Order, as well as in marsupials in general. It is clear that the ancestral marsupial karyotype comprised 14 relatively large chromosomes of the form retained relatively unchanged in caenolestids, microbiotherians, peramelemorphians, vombatids, and pygmy possums. Four pericentric inversions occurred in the ancestral dasyuromorphian (chromosomes 1, 2, 4, and 6) and a different 4 in the ancestral didelphimorphian (chromosomes 1, 3, 5 and 6). Within Diprotodontia, although the ancestral marsupial karyotype has been retained in some families such as the extant wombats and pygmy possums, there have been major karytoypic repatternings early in the evolution of others. Chromosome rearrangements in diprotodontia include centric fissions and fusions, translocations, and centromere shifts. Karyotypic changes are discussed in the context of current hypotheses concerning centromeres, chromosomal fragile sites, and mobile elements in marsupials and the probable repeated involvement of these elements in karyotypic restructuring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)690-702
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


  • diprotodontia
  • marsupial evolution
  • marsupial karyotypes
  • molecular phylogeny

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