Molecular phylogeny of short-tailed opossums (Didelphidae: Monodelphis): Taxonomic implications and tests of evolutionary hypotheses

Silvia E. Pavan, Sharon A. Jansa, Robert S. Voss

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49 Scopus citations


Short-tailed opossums (genus Monodelphis) represent one of the most speciose clades of New World marsupials, with 26 currently recognized species that collectively range from eastern Panama to northern Argentina. Here we present the first phylogenetic analyses of the genus based on dense taxonomic sampling and multiple genes. From most sampled species we obtained >4800. bp of DNA sequence from one mitochondrial gene (CYTB), two autosomal exons (IRBP exon 1, BRCA1 exon 11), one autosomal intron (SLC38 intron 7), and one X-linked intron (OGT intron 14). Maximum-parsimony, maximum-likelihood and Bayesian analyses of these data strongly support the monophyly of Monodelphis and recover six major clades within the genus. Additionally, our analyses support previous suggestions that several nominal taxa are synonyms of other species (M. ". sorex" of M. dimidiata, M. ". theresa" of M. scalops, M. ". rubida" and M. ". umbristriata" of M. americana, and M. ". maraxina" of M. glirina). By contrast, four unnamed lineages recovered by our analyses may represent new species. Reconstructions of ancestral states of two discrete characters-dorsal pelage color pattern and habitat-suggest that the most recent common ancestor of Monodelphis was uniformly colored (with unpatterned dorsal pelage) and inhabited moist forest. Whereas some dorsal pelage patterns appear to have evolved homoplastically in Monodelphis, dorsal stripes may have had a unique historical origin in this genus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-214
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A.C. Pavan, C.G. Costa, L.G. Vieira, J. Calhau, M.A. Ulysséa, V. Piacentini, and L. Moreira-Lima kindly provided lodgings for the senior author during museum visits. S.E.P. received fellowships from the City University of New York and the American Museum of Natural History, and a grant from Universidade de São Paulo (Programa de Pesquisas em Acervos/ Museu de Zoologia da USP), which allowed her to visit the MZUSP collection. This research was partially funded by NSF Grants DEB-0743039 (to R.S.V.) and DEB-0743062 (to S.A.J.).


  • Mammal
  • Marmosini
  • Marsupial
  • MtDNA
  • NDNA
  • Neotropical


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