Phylogenetic relationships of dasyuromorphian marsupials revisited

Michael Westerman, Carey Krajewski, Benjamin P. Kear, Lucy Meehan, Robert W. Meredith, Christopher A. Emerling, Mark S. Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We reassessed the phylogenetic relationships of dasyuromorphians using a large molecular database comprising previously published and new sequences for both nuclear (nDNA) and mitochondrial (mtDNA) genes from the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), most living species of Dasyuridae, and the recently extinct marsupial wolf, Thylacinus cynocephalus. Our molecular tree suggests that Thylacinidae is sister to Myrmecobiidae+Dasyuridae. We show robust support for the dasyurid intrafamilial classification proposed by Krajewski & Westerman as well as for placement of most dasyurid genera, which suggests substantial homoplasy amongst craniodental characters presently used to generate morphology-based taxonomies. Molecular dating with relaxed molecular clocks suggests that dasyuromorphian cladogenesis began in the Eocene, and that all three dasyuromorphian families originated prior to the end of this epoch. Radiation within Thylacinidae and Dasyuridae had occurred by the middle to late Oligocene, consistent with recognition of primitive thylacinids (e.g. Badjcinus turnbulli) in the later Oligocene and of putative dasyurids (e.g. Barinya wangala) by the early Miocene. We propose that all four extant dasyurid tribes were in existence by the early Miocene and that most modern dasyurid genera/species were established before the later Miocene. This is in marked contrast to the popularly accepted advocation of their origins in the latest Miocene-early Pliocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-701
Number of pages16
JournalZoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


  • Dasyuridae
  • Dasyuromorphia
  • Myrmecobius
  • Thylacinus

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