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Most extant New World marsupials belong in the Didelphidae, which comprises ca. 110 currently recognized species of opossums. Didelphids are small mammals with their mean body mass, at species level, ranging from ca. 7 g to 2.2 kg. The largest species belong in a single clade, while substantial variation remains scattered across the remaining groups. We seek out to explore the details of this mass variation in an evolutionary framework. To this end, we first reconstructed the phylogeny of didelphids based on an extensive, although fragmentary sample of sequences from ten genes. We recovered a fully resolved, highly robust phylogeny that tested and confirmed most previously reported groupings, providing a simultaneous depiction of phylogenetic relationships for 81 % of currently recognized species and all relevant supra-specific clades. As much as 69 % of total body mass variation in didelphids was explained by this phylogenetic hypothesis. Mapped on it, mass variation evolved as much as 6.8 kg of total changes, starting from a reconstructed ancestral body mass range of 22–33 g. No single, family-wide pattern was evident; in fact, the dominant pattern for mass variation was that of increases in body mass along a few successive branches, or phyletic giantism, followed by apomorphic nanism, i.e., decreases localized in single terminal branches. Phyletic trends indicated the persistence of gradual, directional changes along considerable spans of geological time and show that substantial variation of interest resides in this and perhaps most groups of small mammals.
Phylogeny and evolution of body mass in didelphid marsupials
(Marsupialia: Didelphimorphia: Didelphidae)
Lucila I. Amador
&Norberto P. Giannini
Received: 18 May 2015 / Accepted: 22 December 2015
#Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2016
Abstract Most extant New World marsupials belong in the
Didelphidae, which comprises ca. 110 currently recognized
species of opossums. Didelphids are small mammals with
their mean body mass, at species level, ranging from ca. 7 g
to 2.2 kg. The largest species belong in a single clade, while
substantial variation remains scattered across the remaining
groups. We seek out to explore the details of this mass varia-
tion in an evolutionary framework. To this end, we first recon-
structed the phylogeny of didelphids based on an extensive,
although fragmentary sample of sequences from ten genes.
We recovered a fully resolved, highly robust phylogeny that
tested and confirmed most previously reported groupings,
providing a simultaneous depiction of phylogenetic relation-
ships for 81 % of currently recognized species and all relevant
supra-specific clades. As much as 69 % of total body mass
variation in didelphids was explained by this phylogenetic
hypothesis. Mapped on it, mass variation evolved as much
as 6.8 kg of total changes, starting from a reconstructed an-
cestral body mass range of 2233 g. No single, family-wide
pattern was evident; in fact, the dominant pattern for mass
variation was that of increases in body mass along a few suc-
cessive branches, or phyletic giantism, followed by
apomorphic nanism, i.e., decreases localized in single terminal
branches. Phyletic trends indicated the persistence of gradual,
directional changes along considerable spans of geological
time and show that substantial variation of interest resides in
this and perhaps most groups of small mammals.
Keywords Didelphidae .Body mass .Phylogeny .Character
mapping .Phyletic giantism .Nanism
Marsupialia (Metatheria) conforms a particular group of mam-
mals, not only with regard to anatomical and physiological
traits (e.g., osteology, dentition, reproductive system;
Dickman 2005), but also given their distinct biogeographic
and evolutionary history. With seven orders and some 330
living species, marsupials comprise ca. 7 % of the extant
mammalian diversity (Dickman 2005). These mammals have
lived in all continents, but since the Middle Miocene, they
became restricted to the Australasian region east to the
Wallace line (Groves 2005) and the New World (Gardner
2005). In the Americas, marsupials are represented by three
extant orders (Microbiotheria, Paucituberculata, and
Didelphimorphia), each one including a single extant family
(Microbiotheriidae, Caenolestidae, and Didelphidae, respec-
tively). Microbiotheriidae groups several extinct taxa and the
single extant species Dromiciops gliroides; likewise,
Caenolestidae includes many extinct but just six extantspecies
classified in three genera. Presently, Didelphidae comprises
the majority of the extant diversity of New World marsupials
(Gardner 2008), with ca. 110 currently recognized species in
18 genera (after synonymy of Micoureus with Marmosa; Voss
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(doi:10.1007/s13127-015-0259-x) contains supplementary material,
which is available to authorized users.
*Lucila I. Amador
Unidad Ejecutora Lillo (UEL: CONICET-FML),
Tucumán, Argentina
Facultad de Ciencias Naturales e Instituto Miguel Lillo,
Tucumán, Argentina
Department of Mammalogy, American Museum of Natural History,
New York, NY, USA
Org Divers Evol
DOI 10.1007/s13127-015-0259-x
et al. 2004;Gardner2005;Vossetal.2005; Solari 2007; Teta
et al. 2009; Voss and Jansa 2009; Gutiérrez et al. 2010; Voss
et al. 2012; Paglia et al. 2012; Solari et al. 2012;Caramaschi
et al. 2011; Pavan et al. 2012;Vossetal.2013;Giarlaand
Jansa 2014; Martínez-Lanfranco et al. 2014; Palma et al.
2014; Pavan et al. 2014;Vossetal.2014; Vilela et al. 2015;
Astúa 2015).
The evolutionary history of New World marsupials is rich-
ly documented in the fossil record (see McKenna and Bell
1997). This history has been shaped by extinction events
(e.g., Dickman and Vieira 2005) and major changes in key
characters, remarkably body mass and conspicuous functional
features associated to diet and locomotion (e.g., Argot 2003,
2004a,b). However, didelphids in particular exhibit a com-
paratively poor fossil record (see McKenna and Bell 1997)
and have experienced relatively modest changes along their
own evolutionary history. As a consequence, didelphids are
often perceived as remarkably conservative in body structure;
e.g., the didelphid molar model is only a slight modification of
an ancient one already found in Cretaceous metatherians (Fox
1987; Chemisquy et al. 2015). For this reason, didelphids, and
particularly the type genus Didelphis, have been traditionally
considered a useful functional model of generalized
metatherians and hence of primitive mammals (e.g.,
Crompton and Hiiemae 1970). However, this conservatism
is only apparent (e.g., Astúa 2009), as didelphids exhibit in-
teresting systematic variation in relevant morphological char-
acters that contribute synapomorphies to both the group and
most inner clades (e.g., Voss and Jansa 2009;Flores2009).
Here, we focus on macroevolutionary variation in body mass
in this natural group. Size is the single most important factor
affecting the biology of mammals (McNab 2007 and Citations
therein), and the particular way in which body mass varies in
different groups, or in mammals as a group, has been a con-
stant source of research in the Class (e.g., Meiri et al. 2008;
Cooper and Purvis 2010; Venditti et al. 2011;G
2012;Slater2013). Gould and MacFadden (2004)describe
evolutionary body mass variation in terms of apomorphic ver-
sus phyletic change (i.e., changes traceable to a single branch
versus changes accumulated along several successive
branches of a phylogeny), as well as increases versus de-
creases. These compose, in combination, the possible out-
comes of apomorphic or phyletic giantism or nanism, in ad-
dition to stasis. Gould and MacFadden (2004) studied macro-
evolutionary size variation in large animals, specifically
equids among mammals. While the largest specimens of
Didelphis virginiana can exceptionally reach 7 kg (although
only in urban environments; McManus 1974; Cerqueira and
Tribe 2007) and some extinct forms were seemingly larger
(e.g., Thylophorops; Simpson 1972,Goinetal.2009;
Hyperdidelphis, Goin and Pardiñas 1996), the great majority
of extant didelphids are rather small mammals (Birney and
Monjeau 2003). To our knowledge, small mammals seldom
have been examined in the framework proposed by Gould and
McFadden (2004), perhaps only bats (Giannini et al. 2012).
In preliminary grounds, several aspects of body mass var-
iation in didelphids are noteworthy and invite further investi-
gation. First, the observed interspecific variation in the aver-
age of body mass in extant didelphid species ranges from 7.6 g
in Gracilinanus emiliae to 2195.5 g in Didelphis virginiana
(data from Smith et al. 2003)oranimpressive289-folddif-
ference between the average of the smallest and the largest
species. Second, cranial morphometric studies have revealed
that didelphids are among the most morphologically highly
integrated, least modular groups of mammals (Shirai and
Marroig 2010); here, body mass is important because that
magnitude of integration arises when most morphological var-
iation is highly correlated with size variation (Porto et al.
2009; see also Astúa 2009). Third, a single group of
didelphids, Didelphini sensu Steiner et al. (2005) contains
Metachirus and all the largest species in four genera (the so-
called 2n = 22 clade, composed of Chironectes,Lutreolina,
Philander,andDidelphis;Flores2009; Voss and Jansa
2009). This strongly suggests a key role of phylogenetic leg-
acy in the evolution of body mass in the group. Naturally,
discovering the specific way in which body mass evolved in
didelphids demands investigation within an explicit phyloge-
netic framework.
Recent studies made significant advances in the phylogeny
of the group. First, although the monophyly of this group was
never seriously challenged within a cladistic context, all mod-
ern phylogenies successively accrued strong support for a
didelphid clade from both molecular (e.g., Voss and Jansa
2003; Jansa and Voss 2005; Gruber et al. 2007; Voss and
Jansa 2009) and morphological data (e.g., Horovitz and
SánchezVillagra 2003; Voss and Jansa 2003;Jansaand
Vo s s 2005;Flores2009). Second, and contrary to earlier stud-
ies, the new phylogenies revealed that internal relationships
among didelphids are remarkably congruent across different
sources of evidence (morphology, karyotypes, and gene
sequences; Flores 2009; Voss and Jansa 2009). These results,
defining the branching pattern of extant didelphids, have been
consistently reflected in the current systematics of the family
(Fig. 1; Voss and Jansa 2009; de la Sancha et al. 2012;Palma
et al. 2014;Vossetal.2014).
Here, we seek to investigate in detail the evolution of body
mass in this group with relatively modest, albeit interesting
variation. To this end, we contribute a comprehensive phylog-
eny that includes 81 % of currently recognized species. This
phylogeny was built upon molecular data including sequences
from ten genes from recent studies, so constructed in order to
increase the taxonomic density and, thus, the reliability of
both the phylogenetic framework used and the estimation of
evolutionary change in body mass. We show (1) that the cur-
rent phylogenetic hypothesis of didelphid relationships
(Fig. 1) is extraordinarily robust to the test of significant
L.I. Amador, N.P. Giannini
(near 2-fold) increase in both character and taxonomic sam-
pling and (2) that while research has been centered around
trends that comprise relatively large changes in wide body
mass ranges (e.g., Copes rule or the island rule; Lomolino
2005), macroevolutionary variation in small mammals such
as didelphids reveals highly interesting patterns with signifi-
cant implications in the perceived evolution of body mass in
Materials and methods
Taxo n omi c s a mpl i n g
We constructed a data matrix that includes 89 currently recog-
nized species following Gardner (2005) and other authorities
(Voss et al. 2004;Vossetal.2005; Solari 2007;Tetaetal.
2009; Voss and Jansa 2009; Gutiérrez et al. 2010;Vossetal.
2012; Paglia et al. 2012; Solari et al. 2012;Caramaschietal.
2011; Pavan et al. 2012;Vossetal.2013; Giarla and Jansa
2014; Martínez-Lanfranco et al. 2014; Palma et al. 2014;
Pavan et al. 2014;Vossetal.2014;Vilelaetal.2015). This
matrix includes all the species represented in the GenBank
database as of November 2014 (see taxonomic list and
accession numbers in Table SI.1, Supplementary
Information) for the gene sequences selected for this study
(see below). All didelphid genera and species groups are rep-
resented in this sample (Table 1), except for the monotypic
Chacodelphys for which no sequences are available. Five taxa
were added as outgroups: the caenolestids Rhyncholestes
raphanurus,Lestoros inca,andCaenolestes fuliginosus
(Paucituberculata: Caenolestidae) and Dromiciops gliroides
(Microbiotheria: Microbiotheriidae), which together with
didelphids represent the extant higher-level diversity of New
World marsupials, plus one basal representative of the large
native Australian marsupial clade, Dasyurus geoffroii
(Dasyuromorphia: Dasyuridae). Thereby, the analysis com-
prised a total of 94 terminals.
Characters and matrix compilation
We selected sequences from four mitochondrial and six nucle-
ar genes. The mitochondrial genes included the protein-
coding cytochrome b (Cyt-b) and the cytochrome c oxidase
subunit 1 (COI) and the ribosomal subunits 12S and 16S. The
nuclear genes included the interphotoreceptor retinoid binding
protein (IRBP), the breast cancer susceptibility protein 1
(BRCA1, exons 10 and 11), the dentin matrix protein 1
(DMP1), the recombination activating protein 1 (RAG1), the
von Willebrand factor (vWF, exon 28), and the transthyretin
intron 1 (TTR). These sequences are of proven systematic
utility in didelphids, and they have been generated and used,
in different combinations, by several previous authors (e.g.,
Palma and Spotorno 1999; Steiner et al.2005; Jansa et al.
2006;Gruberetal.2007; Voss and Jansa 2009). Sequences
of these genes were available for at least 23 of the study spe-
cies (Tables 2and SI.1for accession numbers).
Sequences were compiled with the program GenBank to
TNT (GB2TNT; Goloboff and Catalano 2012), a pipeline for
creating large molecular matrices that selects sequences in-
cluded in a GenBank file (by using filters defined by the user),
Tab l e 1 Taxonomic sampling, detailing number (a.f. absolute
frequency), and percentage (%) of included species of each extant
didelphid genus
Genus Number of species Number of sampled species
a.f. %
Caluromys 33100.0
Caluromysiops 11100.0
Chacodelphys 100.0
Chironectes 11100.0
Cryptonanus 5360.0
Didelphis 66100.0
Glironia 11100.0
Gracilinanus 6466.7
Hyladelphis 11100.0
Lestodelphys 11100.0
Lutreolina 22100.0
Marmosa 20 17 85.0
Marmosops 15 9 60.0
Metachirus 11100.0
Monodelphis 26 22 84.6
Philander 6466.7
Thylamys 13 12 92.3
Tlacuatzin 11100.0
Total 110 89 80.9
Fig. 1 Current hypothesis of systematic relationships in Didelphidae.
Subg. subgenus
Phylogeny and evolution of body mass in didelphid marsupials
creates a Fasta file, produces the alignment (by calling an
external program defined by the user), and generates the data
matrix in TNT (Goloboff et al. 2008b) format. From this
format, we migrated manually to PHYLIP format used by
RAxML (Stamatakis et al.2008). The completeness and ac-
curacy of the dataset so generated were checked against the
original GenBank depository to avoid missing sequences, du-
plicates, and other mistakes, which include, for instance, syn-
tactic ambiguities in the species entries. Sequences were
aligned using the program MAFFT (version 7, Katoh and
Standley 2013) with default settings. In all analyses (see be-
low), indels were treated as missing values, and the
australidelphian Dasyurus geoffroii was designated to root
the trees.
Phylogenetic analyses
We conducted two series of phylogenetic analyses with differ-
ent optimality criteria. First, a maximum likelihood (ML)
analysis was performed on the total dataset using the server
version of RAxML 7.2.8 (Stamatakis et al.2008). This pro-
gram approximates the finding of ML trees using a sample of
100 bootstrap replicates. The substitution model applied was
Second, we performed parsimony (maximum parsimony
(MP)) analyses for tree search and branch support using the
program TNT 1.1 (Goloboff et al. 2008b). We executed
heuristic searches based on 200 random addition sequences
(RAS) each followed by Tree Bisection Reconnection (TBR)
branch swapping, saving up to 15 trees per replicate. The
search was refined with an additional TBR round applied to all
trees kept in memory. Strict consensus tree was calculated from
the set of most parsimonious trees obtained. All characters
were treated as unordered and using both equal weighting
(default option) and implied weighting (Goloboff 1993,
2014), as implemented in the current version of TNT.
Implied weighting is a traditional technique that parsimonious-
ly weights against homoplasy during tree search (Goloboff
1993), and it has been shown to outperform equally weighted
parsimony (Goloboff et al. 2008a). This technique was
applied with default settings (e.g., concavity constant k=3;
Goloboff et al. 2008a). No constraints were enforced during
searches. Branch stability and support were estimated with a
symmetric resampling (jackknife) analysis based on 1000
replicates and sequential Bremer absolute values. We
followed Giannini and Bertelli (2004) to calculate Bremer
values from ten successive samplings of up to 2000, one-
step-longer suboptimal trees. This search strategy was applied
to each gene and to concatenated datasets, specifically nuclear,
mitochondrial, total, and a nine-gene dataset excluding RAG1
sequences ran to test the impact of the homoplasy problem
caused by convergence in CG content on the third position of
this gene (Gruber et al.2007).
Evolution of body mass
We obtained body mass data, in grams, from specific sources
(Mondolfi and Pérez-Hernández 1984; Catzeflis et al.1997;
Smith et al. 2003; Voss et al.2004;Rossi2005; Voss et al.
2005; Cáceres et al.2007;Floresetal.2008;Forero-Medina
and Vieira 2009;L
einerandSilva2009; Perez-Carusi et al.
2009; Voss and Jansa 2009; Lim et al.2010; Rossi et al.2010;
Gutiérrez et al.2011; Paglia et al.2012; Pavan et al.2012;
Voss et al.2012; Voss et al.2013; Barrera-Niño and Sánchez
2014;Martínez-Lanfrancoetal.2014; and Flores, Teta, Solari
and Voss, personal communication; Table SI.2). In addition,
we gathered data from 11 didelphid species housed in the
Colección Mamíferos Lillo (CML; Tucumán, Argentina;
Tab le SI.2and see Appendix 1for specimen vouchers,
Supplementary Information).
We approached the macroevolutionary analysis of body
mass in didelphids using two contrasting methodologies.
First, we aimed at assessing the global phylogenetic effect
on body mass in the group, by means of estimating the fraction
of total mass variance explained by significant tree partitions.
This method, Canonical Phylogenetic Ordination (hereafter
CPO; Giannini 2003), considers the comparative data as de-
pendent variable(s), here the vector of body mass data for each
didelphid species, in a linear model; tree partitions represent
the independent part of the model and are equivalent to clades
of a rooted tree. Tree partitions use a presence-absence
(binary) code to represent membership of species, and each
constitutes an explanatory variable that is tested using
Tab l e 2 Character sampling, detailing mitochondrial and nuclear
markers used, number of aligned base pairs (bp), and number of
sequences (=species) for each marker
Marker Number of aligned bp Number of included sequences
Cyt-b 1149 89
COI 657 36
12S rRNA 992 26
16S rRNA 1653 23
Subtotal 4451 174
IRBP 1158 57
BRCA1 2139 62
DMP1 1209 38
RAG1 2790 44
vWF 972 46
TTR 1770 25
Subtotal 10,038 272
Tot al 1 4, 48 9 446
L.I. Amador, N.P. Giannini
unrestricted Monte Carlo permutations (here, 4999 permuta-
tions were used). These tests of individual tree partitions are
followed by a forward stepwise selection procedure that seeks
to produce a maximally explanatory, but non-redundant model
that is a linear combination of selected partitions (clades).
These analyses were executed using the program CANOCO
version 4.0 (ter Braak and Šmilauer 1998).
Second, we chose to apply a local, node-by-node descrip-
tive approach that allowed an appropriate evaluation of evo-
lutionary changes in the framework proposed by Gould and
McFadden (2004). The body mass information was arranged
in TNT data matrix format and mapped as a continuous char-
acter (see Goloboff et al. 2006) with a single value (the species
average) per terminal, as implemented in TNT. Following
Giannini et al. (2012), we chose to interpret nodal location,
sign (increase or decrease), and magnitude of change, with the
latter being the net change or the amount of body mass in-
crease or decrease common to all reconstructions for a given
branch. We looked for macroevolutionary patterns in body
mass variation, in terms of phyletic or apomorphic changes,
giantism or nanism, and their corresponding combinations
(see Gould and McFadden 2004). To assess the persistence
of the phyletic pattern, we defined a simple metric, the order of
phyletic change, as the number of consecutive branches com-
posing the phyletic pattern, so the higher the order, the more
persistent the pattern; for instance, increases of body mass
along three consecutive branches represented a case of third-
order phyletic giantism.
Our molecular phylogeny includes the most comprehensive
taxonomic sampling to date, comprising 81 % of extant
didelphid diversity at the species level (i.e., 89 currently
recognized species; Table 1). The alignment produced
14,489 nucleotide characters distributed in 4451 and 10,038 bp
of mitochondrial and nuclear sequences, respectively (Table 2
and see Table SI.1for accession numbers). Clades recovered
from the various analyses in this study (see below) are summa-
rized in Table 3, and parenthetical trees are shown in Appendix 2
(Supplementary Information).
Individual genes
The nuclear genes BRCA1, IRBP, DMP1, and vWF and the
mitochondrial gen Cyt-b recovered all (or almost all) the phy-
logenetic structure of the total dataset analysis (see below
BTotal molecular evidence^section). RAG1 and TTR recov-
ered clades to approximately genus level, while 12S and 16S
so did at a higher taxonomic level (i.e., family, subfamilies).
Finally, COI exhibited a good performance chiefly within
Marmosini (sensu Steiner et al.2005).
Mitochondrial and nuclear datasets
Both the mitochondrial and nuclear analyses yielded highly
resolved, supported trees largely in agreement with the total
molecular evidence analysis (see below), but the latter recov-
ered more monophyletic groups. Except for the position of
Lestodelphys halli, which was nested within Thylamys, the
global structure of the nuclear dataset result was almost iden-
tical to that of total molecular evidence phylogeny (see be-
low), strongly suggesting that this data partition dominated the
combined analysis.
Total molecular evidence
The maximum likelihood (ML) best tree topology with boot-
strap values is shown in Fig. 2. Subfamilies Caluromyinae and
Didelphinae, as well as Marmosini, Didelphini, and
Thylamyini clades (sensu Steiner et al.2005), were recovered
as strongly supported monophyletic groups. Besides,
Didelphini and Thylamyini were reconstructed as sister
groups, and Hyladelphys kalinowskii was the basalmost taxon
of Didelphinae.
Didelphini was strongly supported, with Metachirus
nudicaudatus recovered as sister to the other genera subse-
quently branching in the order of Chironectes,Lutreolina,
and Philander +Didelphis. Within Thylamyini, Marmosops
was sister of a clade that included Gracilinanus +
Cryptonanus and Lestodelphys +Thylamys. In turn,
Thylamys consisted of five inner clades: (1) (Thylamys
velutinus,Thylamys karimii), (2) (Thylamys venustus
(Thylamys cinderella,Thylamys sponsorius)), (3) Thylamys
macrura, (4) (Thylamys tatei (Thylamys elegans,Thylamys
pallidior)), and (5) (Thylamys citellus (Thylamys pulchellus,
Thylamys pusillus)). Bootstrap values in Thylamyini were
very high (>80), with the exception of two small terminal
clades. Finally, Marmosini consisted of two main clades, the
specious genus Monodelphis and the clade formed by
Tlacuatzin +Marmosa. The latter included five clades, all
matching the subgenera recognized by Voss et al. (2014): (1)
subgenus Eomarmosa:Marmosa rubra, (2) subgenus
Exulomarmosa:(Marmosa simonsi (Marmosa robinsoni,
Marmosa xerophila)(Marmosa mexicana (Marmosa
zeledoni,Marmosa isthmica))), (3) subgenus Stegomarmosa:
Marmosa lepida, (4) subgenus Marmosa:((Marmosa
macrotarsus,Marmosa waterhousei)(Marmosa tyleriana,
Marmosa murina)), and (5) subgenus Micoureus:
((Marmosa constantiae,Marmosa regina)(Marmosa
paraguayanus (Marmosa alstoni,Marmosa demerarae))).
The majority of bootstrap values were high (>70) in these
groups. Monodelphis consisted of five inner clades: (1)
Phylogeny and evolution of body mass in didelphid marsupials
Tab l e 3 Clades recovered from different analyses following maximum likelihood (ML) and parsimony (MP) criteria
Clade Phylogenetic analyses
Individual genes (MP) Mitoc
10 g
10 g
Didelphidae X X X X X X X XXXXX
Caluromyinae X X X X X(+2) X X X X
Didelphinae X X X X X X X (2) X X X X
Hyladelphis + (Marmosini, Didelphini, Thylamyini) –––XX X XXXX
Marmosini X (+1) XXX X X X X X X X
Tlacuatzin +Marmosa –––XX X XXX
Didelphini X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Didelphis X(1) X (+1) X X (+1) X (+1) X X X X X
Philander XXX X X(1) X (1) X X X X X
Didelphis +Philander XX X(+1)XX XXXXX(+3)X X X X
Thylamyini X (+4) X (1) XX X XX X X X X
Marmosops XXX XXXXX(1) X X X X
Cryptonanus X–––XX XXXXXXXX
Gracilinanus X–––XX X(1) X X XXXXX
Cryptonanus +Gracilinanus ––– XXX XXXX
Thylamys X––X
Lestodelphis +Thylamys X–––XX––XX X X X X
Cryptonanus +Gracilinanus +Lestodelphis +Thylamys –––XX–––X(+1) X X X X
Didelphini + Thylamyini X (+3) X X X X X X X X X X
For the last, only implied weighting (IW) results are shown. Crosses correspond to monophyletic groups, with the number of taxa which have been misplaced outside of the group () or the number of
extraneous taxa added to the group (+) in brackets. Dashes indicate inapplicable cases
Mitoc mitochondrial, Nucl nuclear, ggenes
L.I. Amador, N.P. Giannini
Fig. 2 Best tree resulting from total dataset (ten genes) maximum
likelihood analysis. Bootstrap support values are indicated for each
node and are also reflected on degree of branch thickness. Asterisks:
Pavan et al.(2014) included Monodelphis theresa in Monodelphis
scalops,Monodelphis sorex in Monodelphis dimidiata,andMonodelphis
umbristriata in Monodelphis americana
Phylogeny and evolution of body mass in didelphid marsupials
(Monodelphis scalops,Monodelphis theresa), (2)
(Monodelphis sorex,Monodelphis dimidiata), (3)
(Monodelphis gardneri (Monodelphis iheringi (Monodelphis
umbristriata,Monodelphis americana))), (4) ((Monodelphis
domestica (Monodelphis glirina,Monodelphis sanctaerosae))
(Monodelphis arlindoi (Monodelphis touan (Monodelphis
brevicaudata,Monodelphis palliolata)))), and (5)
(Monodelphis kunsi ((Monodelphis adusta,Monodelphis
reigi)(Monodelphis peruviana (Monodelphis osgoodi,
Monodelphis handleyi)))). The Monodelphis groups them-
selves (and the relationships within them) were strongly sup-
ported (bootstrap values >75), but this was not the case with
their interrelationships (bootstrap values <50).
Parsimony analysis of the total dataset using implied
weighting (IW) is shown in Fig. SI.1(Supplementary
Information). The resulting topology is the strict consensus
of the three most parsimonious trees obtained, which shows
almost identical relationships as compared with the ML tree,
with just a few differences concentrated in small terminal
clades. The single politomy in the consensus involved four
species of Marmosops (Marmosops dorothea,Marmosops
invictus,Marmosops impavidus,andMarmosops noctivagus).
The parsimony total dataset analysis using equal weighting
(EW) generated 216 most parsimonious trees. The strict con-
sensus was quite similar to that of IW analysis, except for the
greater number of politomies. This was replicated in the re-
mainder of EW analysis. For that reason, we used only IW
topologies for the comparison of phylogenetical results
(Table 3).
Concatenated partition excluding RAG1
The global topology recovered with this analysis was very
similar to that of the total analysis. The main differences
consisted of the following: (1) the position of Tlacuatzin
canescens as sister to Marmosa +Monodelphis, instead of
the Marmosa clade; (2) the relative position among monophy-
letic groups within Monodelphis (although the groups
remained the same) and the position of Monodelphis emiliae
(in a more nested clade); and (3) the relative positions of
monophyletic groups within Thylamys (although the groups
remained the same) and position of Thylamys macrura (sister
to the Bvenustus^group).
Evolution of body mass
We obtained average values of body mass from the literature
and museum specimens that covered all terminal taxa
(Table SI.2). The log-transformed distribution of mass in
didelphids is shown in Fig. 3, with calculated mean = 179 g,
median= 51 g, and mode =17 g. This distribution was discon-
tinuous due to species of Didelphini and Caluromyinae ex-
cluding Glironia, which appeared as a separate group in
Fig. 3.
Phylogeny explained much of the total body mass varia-
tion, but the global, non-redundant effect of phylogeny on
body mass was quite restricted. Specifically, ten clades were
individually significant at alpha= 0.01 (defined to be interme-
diate between the true Bonferroni-corrected value and the
conventional 0.05 significance level). However, when
Fig. 2 continued.
L.I. Amador, N.P. Giannini
submitted to forward stepwise selection procedure, a single
clade was retained in the model (F= 206.17, P= 0.0002).
This clade was Didelphis, and the variation explained by this
single-variable model was as high as 69 %. This result repre-
sents the gross-scale effect of phylogeny on the body mass
variation in didelphids.
The fine-scale, detailed reconstruction of body mass evo-
lution is shown in Fig. 4. Total amount of change, i.e., the
reported length for the body mass character on the retrieved
phylogeny (steps), was 6760 g, but total net change, i.e., the
sum of changes common to all reconstructions, was 4921 g.
The ancestral node of Didelphidae was assigned states 22
33 g. There was no net change along the backbone, so the first
changes to occur were reconstructed within each of the main
clades (i.e., Caluromyinae, Marmosini, Didelphini,
Thylamyini). The largest absolute increase in any didelphid
branch was located at the node of Didelphis virginiana (+
971 g), whereas the largest increase in relative terms was
reconstructed on the branch leading to Didelphini (967 % in-
crease in body mass with respect to the reconstructed hypo-
thetical ancestor). The largest absolute decrease was located at
the Didelphis imperfecta branch (430 g), while in relative
terms, the largest decrease was reconstructed at the
Marmosa lepida branch (264 % with respect to the
A summary with frequency percentagesof stasis, increases,
and decreases is shown in Table 4. A prevalence of stasis was
observed both at global level (62.7 %) as well as within par-
ticular groups. With regard to the frequency of net changes,
although increases predominated over decreases globally,
both types of change were relatively balanced within groups,
with the exception of Caluromyinae where only increases
were reconstructed. However, the magnitude of increases
was twice as much (or more) as the magnitude of decreases,
both at global level as in particular groups (Table 5).
With respect to the observed patterns of body mass evolu-
tion, no clear global pattern (e.g., Copes rule or the like) was
detected. However, multiple cases of either phyletic and
apomorphic changes were reconstructed in particular clades
or branches, being the first type nearly twice as common as the
second type (Table 6). Considering these specific patterns, the
more frequent combinations were phyletic giantism and
apomorphic nanism, both at global level and within principal
clades (Table 6). The most notable cases of phyletic giantism
were, as expected, concentrated in the Didelphis clade
(Fig. 4), specifically Didelphis virginiana,Didelphis
marsupialis,andDidelphis pernigra, representing a fourth-
order case of phyletic giantism. In the other hand, the most
notable cases of apomorphic nanism were located in
Marmosini (Fig. 4), with Marmosa lepida (37 g or 264 %
decrease with respect to its descendant) and Monodelphis
sanctaerosae (43 g or 187 % decrease).
In this research, we aimed at understanding body mass evolu-
tion in a group of small mammals ofour interest, the didelphid
marsupials. This is particularly important because didelphid
marsupials are morphologically highly integrated taxa (see
Porto et al.2009), meaning that they are evolutionarily less
flexible than most other mammals (Marroig et al.2009)sothat
their evolutionary responses to selection are basically aligned
with size variation (Marroig et al. 2009; Shirai and Marroig
2010). Macroevolutionary patterns, such as this one of body
mass evolution, can only be discerned in an explicit phyloge-
netic framework (Gould and MacFadden 2004;Honeetal.
2005; Butler and Goswami 2008). Thus, we contributed a
comprehensive, strong phylogeny based on unconstrained tree
searches that included 89 currently recognized didelphid spe-
cies. Previously, the most comprehensive phylogenetic hy-
pothesis of the group was the marsupial supertree provided
by Cardillo et al. (2004), containing 62 didelphid species;
however, this supertree lacks resolution particularly for New
World marsupials. Here, we carried out our phylogeny of
didelphids from a supermatrix approach, with no constraints
on recovered clades. This analysis contains at least twice as
many species included in recent supermatrix phylogenies
(e.g., Jansa et al.2006;Gruberetal.2007; Voss-Jansa 2009;
Flores et al.2009;Astúa2009; May-Collado et al.2015). We
were able to provide a fully resolved, highly supported phy-
logenetic hypothesis for the Didelphidae. This result is
Fig. 3 Log-transformed distribution of body mass in Didelphidae
Phylogeny and evolution of body mass in didelphid marsupials
somewhat unexpected given the level of character conflict
apparent in earlier studies of didelphid systematics (e.g.,
Kirsch 1977; Kirsch and Archer 1982; Kirsch and Palma
1995;Reigetal.1987); by contrast, our phylogeny and its
systematic implications were generally consistent with all re-
cent analyses, both at a suprageneric and infrageneric level.
Moreover, the two distinct analyses performed (ML and par-
simony) produced almost identical results. The tree reflected,
for each major group, the resolution found in specific previous
studies (see below). Although this may seem trivial given that
sequences came from those studies, results need not to be
congruent globally when data are gathered together from dif-
ferent partial studies attacking specific subgroups, but we ob-
tained a remarkable result of high congruence when all taxa
and data were analyzed together, as we discussed next. We
recovered Hyladelphys as sister to all didelphids as in Jansa
and Voss (2005), and the internal structure of the remaining
clades, particularly Marmosa, and the recently proposed sub-
division in five subgenera (see Gutiérrez et al.2010;dela
Sancha et al.2012;Vossetal.2014), Monodelphis
Fig. 4 Evolution of body mass in Didelphidae. Reconstructed values are shown below branches. Black arrows denote increases and gray ones,
decreases. Body mass values in grams for taxa are indicated in brackets
L.I. Amador, N.P. Giannini
(Caramaschi et al.2011;Carvalhoetal.2011; Pavan et al.
2012,2014), Philander (Chemisquy and Flores 2012), and
Thylamys (Giarla et al.2010; Giarla and Jansa 2014;Palma
et al. 2014). Our tree differs slightly from others only in poorly
supported clades (e.g., inside Monodelphis; see Vilela et al.
2015). This means that the data accrued to date by many
independent researchers proved to be of high quality and
congruence. It should be noted that the global topology was
not significantly modified when RAG1 sequences were
excluded from the supermatrix, thus contrasting with Gruber
et al. (2007) whose results substantially improved with the
exclusion of the RAG1 third position. This might be due to
the fact that homoplasy by convergence in CG content on this
position, which Gruber et al. (2007) claimed to cause the
Fig. 4 continued.
Phylogeny and evolution of body mass in didelphid marsupials
inconsistent topology problem in the group, would be com-
pensated by the congruent signal of many other independent
characters. In summary, we simultaneously tested, with more
taxa and characters, the monophyly of all didelphid groups
proposed to date, found strong support for most previously
recognized groups in a single, robust phylogenetic hypothesis,
and thus offered a strong confirmation to the current classifi-
cation of the Didelphidae. This provides a firm basis for future
taxonomic, evolutionary, and biogeographic studies in the
A first application of this remarkable phylogenetic result is
precisely our analysis of body mass evolution. In spite of
being small and therefore limited to the lower range of the
whole mammalian variation, didelphids revealed considerable
and highly interesting variation. This is both in terms of com-
parisons between observed extremes, with a ca. 289-fold dif-
ference between the average mass of smallest and largest spe-
cies, and in evolutionary terms (see below). We detected one
major tree partition with large, significant differences between
the set of its respective members, specifically Didelphis,
which explained as much as 69 % of total interspecific average
mass variation in the group. We also reconstructed, by means
of character mapping, many changes that allowed a detailed
analysis of body mass evolution in the group. The ancestral
interval, estimated at 2233 g, is quite narrow, so the confi-
dence on its reconstructed range increases. From this small
root value, dated at a point estimate of 31.4 mya in the
Oligocene (or range estimated in 2338 mya, between late
Eocene and Oligocene; Meredith et al.2011), didelphids
evolved as much as 6760 g of total mass changes. This sce-
nario differs from a larger previous estimate of ancestral body
mass based on morphometric data, corresponding to the mass
of Marmosa (subgenus Micoureus)orGlironia (Astúa 2009),
that is between 75 and 130 g (Table SI.2). In all likelihood, this
difference with our ancestral estimate (at 2233 g, see above)
may be due to the fact that the taxonomic sample in Astúa
(2009) lacked small outgroups (caenolestids not included) and
small relevant basal taxa (particularly Hyladelphis;16g,
Tab le SI.2). The amount of evolutionary change that we re-
constructed did not unfold in a specific pattern for didelphids
as a group. We see, as discussed next, that evolution of body
mass was group-specific, and this reflects, within a particular
clade of mammals, a pattern found at the level of the Class
(e.g., Venditti et al.2011).
The total magnitude of changes in absolute terms was
greater for increases than for decreases, as expected. This bias
Tabl e 4 Results from body mass
optimization Clade Stasis
Tot al n um be r of nodes
a.f. % a.f. % a.f. %
Family Didelphidae 111 62.7 38 21.5 28 15.8 177
Subfamily Caluromyinae 5 55.6 4 44.4 0 0.0 9
Subfamily Didelphinae 105 62.9 34 20.4 28 16.8 167
Marmosini 49 62.0 18 22.8 12 15.2 79
Didelphini 15 55.6 7 25.9 5 18.5 27
Thylamyini 38 66.7 9 15.8 10 17.5 57
Frequencies of stasis, increases, and decreases are indicated for each main Didelphidae clade, both in absolute
terms (a.f. absolute frequency) and in relative terms (%)
Tabl e 5 Results from body mass
optimization (cont.) Clade Increases magnitude Decreases magnitude Total
a.v. (g) % a.v. (g) %
Family Didelphidae 3599 73.14 1322 26.86 4921
Subfamily Caluromyinae 512 100.00 0 0.00 512
Subfamily Didelphinae 3087 70.02 1322 29.98 4409
Marmosini 312 66.24 159 33.76 471
Didelphini 2660 70.84 1095 29.16 3755
Thylamyini 115 64.97 62 35.03 177
Magnitudes of increases and decreases are indicated for each main Didelphidae clade, both in absolute terms (a.v.
absolute value, in g) and in relative terms (%)
L.I. Amador, N.P. Giannini
toward a greater magnitude of increases is not an artifact of the
reconstruction technique but a property of the character scale
(restricted to the set of positive rational numbers). Large in-
creases are more likely to occur than large decreases; e.g.,
from any small value, like the root at 27.5 g (middle between
22 and 33 g), it is possible to have a large evolutionary in-
crease of, say 200 g, thus producing a descendant at 227.5 g,
but it is not possible to have the same absolute amount of
decrease. By contrast, the frequencies of increases and de-
creases were relatively balanced within groups (except in
Caluromyinae). A major difference was though that increases
(giantism in Gould and McFaddens(2004)terminology)
were arranged more commonly in a phyletic pattern, while
decreases (nanism) were more often single, or apomorphic,
changes. In this way, the largest values of body mass observed
in extant Didelphidae were reconstructed as the cumulative
evolution along successive branches through time, while the
smallest values of body mass were often the product of single
evolutionary events. Given this pattern, the most persistent
case of phyletic giantism was that of Didelphis.Particularly
in Didelphis virginiana, four changes along six branches
added a total of 2032 g, that is, a ca. 62-fold increase from
the ancestral Didelphini and a ca. 80-fold increase between the
reconstructed ancestral body mass at 2233 g (mean 27.5 g)
and the largest terminal (Didelphis virginiana at average
2195 g). Still, 82 % of that change occurred at the ancestral
Didelphis and its descendant species. If we assume a basal
position to the oldest known Didelphis specimen, which is
also the smallest member of the genus, of late Miocene
(Huayquerian) age from the Solimões formation in the
Brazilian Amazon (Cozzuol et al.2006), it shows that this
trend of increasing body mass has persisted for at least 9
6.8 my. The rate of change, estimated between 2032 g/
9 my = 225.7 g my
and 2032 g/6.8 my = 298.8 g my
was very high (4-to-6-fold the median value for the family at
51 g). This trend is consistent with fast but gradual (phyletic)
change and suggests directional selection for increased body
mass sustained over substantial geological time. This also
holds if extinct forms (e.g., the largest known didelphid, the
late Pliocene Thylophorops lorenzinii,Goinetal.2009)are
This evolution must have affected the biology of Didelphis
at a critical geologic age. Modern Didelphis appeared shortly
before the mammalian peak of geodispersal during the Great
American Biotic Interchange (GABI; Cozzuol et al.2006;also
see Bacon et al.2015) and must have speciated during the
latest GABI phases. At this time, placental carnivores gradu-
ally entered South America, and no other marsupials as large
or larger than Didelphis escaped extinction; Didelphis not
An anonymous reviewer suggested that large body mass may also be
physiologically advantageous for colonization of cold areas, as is the case
of Didelphis virginiana in its northern distributional limit.
Tab l e 6 Patterns of body mass evolution in terms of phyletic giantism (PG), phyletic nanism (PN), apomorphic giantism (AG), and apomorphic nanism (AN)
Clade Total changes Phyletic changes Apomorphic changes
PG PN Total AG AN Total
a.f.% a.f.% a.f.% a.f.%
Family Didelphidae 66 32 48.5 8 12.1 40 6 9.1 20 30.3 26
Subfamily Caluromyinae 4 4 100.0 0 0.0 4 0 0.0 0 0.0 0
Subfamily Didelphinae 62 28 45.2 8 12.9 36 6 9.7 20 32.3 26
Marmosini 30 16 53.3 2 6.7 18 2 6.7 10 33.3 12
Didelphini 12 7 58.3 0 0.0 7 0 0.0 5 41.7 5
Thylamyini 19 5 26.3 6 31.6 11 4 21.1 4 21.1 8
Numbers indicate the absolute frequency (a.f.) and the percentage (%) of changes under the different patterns for each main didelphid clade
Phylogeny and evolution of body mass in didelphid marsupials
only survived, but also speciated and even expanded its range
to North America (Giannini et al.2011, and Citations therein).
This marsupial clade accumulated defensive morphologies
and skills (e.g., presence of hypertrophied spinous processes
in cervical vertebrae that function as neck armor, catatonia or
death feigning, secretion of anal glands, etc.; see Giannini
et al.2011), shifted to more generalized feeding and locomo-
tor habits, and achieved a relatively large body mass as com-
pared with most of their ancestors and extinct close relatives
(cf. Goin et al.2009). Possibly, this body mass permitted to be
large enough for accessing vertebrate prey and for promoting
the development of efficient defensive traits
but, at the same
time, to be still small enough for avoiding potential placental
omnivore competitors (e.g., Procyonidae), and for maintain-
ing those generalized habits (Astúa 2009). Thus, we speculate
that phyletic giantism in didelphids is associated with long-
term, persistent changes in diet (e.g., from insectivory to in-
creased frugivory or omnivory, as in caluromines and
didelphines) and/or locomotion (see Astúa 2009). By contrast,
evolution of body mass showed that the most prominent de-
creases were more recent (i.e., near the terminals), specifically
within Marmosini (see above). Apomorphic nanism is possi-
bly related to specific limitations (e.g., physiological or eco-
logical) for reducing mass in a mammal whose ancestor was
already small.
Previous studies on marsupials relate body mass with risk
of extinction (e.g., Cardillo and Bromhan 2001;Fisheretal.
2003; Johnson and Isaac 2009). These investigations
attempted to test the controversial hypothesis of Bcritical
weight range^(CWR) proposed by Burbidge and McKenzie
(1989), who stated that species of non-volant terrestrial mam-
mals of intermediate body mass (between 35 and 5500 g) have
declined mostseverely. However, these studies were restricted
to Australasian species, and the picture seems to be different
for American marsupial species. On preliminary grounds, the
surviving species have a small to intermediate body mass
(being the lastsuccessfully widespread), while the large clades
(order Sparassodonta) became all extinct (see above). The
traditional explanation for this pattern has been the competi-
tion with placental carnivorans, which entered from North
America during the GABI and caused the decline and extinc-
tion of large carnivorous marsupials. However, this idea has
been questioned, criticized, or rejected in recent years, as there
is no evidence of temporal overlap between carnivorans and
their sparassodont ecological counterparts (Prevosti et al.
2013), so apparently, carnivorans occupied a niche left vacant
by extinct sparassodonts (a passive replacement pattern), as
already advanced by Marshall (1978)andcommentedby
Vieira and Astúa de Moraes (2003). Whatever the cause, the
association between risk of extinction and body mass in
American marsupial species appears to follow a different pat-
tern from that of Australian species and deserves further
In conclusion, here, we provided a robust phylogenetic
basis for evolutionary comparisons of relevant life history
traits in a group of particular biological interest, the largest
New World radiation of marsupials, the didelphids. On this
basis, we revealed interesting patterns of body mass evolution
in a group of typical small mammals, including no clade-wide
dominating trend, predominance of phyletic increases and
apomorphic decreases, and persistent clade-specific trends
consistent with directional selection over extended periods
of geological time. This is particularly relevant given the con-
straint imposed by mass on morphological evolutionary re-
sponses to directional selection in highly integrated mammals,
such as didelphids (Marroig et al.2009). We conclude that
evolutionary body mass variation of substantial interest may
reside in groups of small mammals; this should be explored
further in more groups in the light of robust phylogenetic
reconstructions, as demonstrated here with didelphids.
Acknowledgments We thank Diego Astúa, David Flores, Sergio
Solari, Pablo Teta, and Robert Voss for providing us with unpublished
body mass data and Rubén Barquez and Mónica Díaz (CML) for granting
access to specimens under their care. Special thanks to Santiago Catalano
for his help with using his program GB-to-TNT. We acknowledge support
from Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas
(CONICET), Argentina, and grant PICT 20081798 to NPG.
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... The phylogenetic relationships among the three species of Caenolestidae included here were taken from Ojala- Barbour et al. (2013). The didelphid subtree was taken from Amador and Giannini (2016). Branch lengths were taken from Mitchell et al. (2014) and locally adjusted according to the branching pattern recovered in the other phylogenies used (Online Resource 1). ...
... Didelphimorphia-Didelphids originated as small (22-23 g; Amador and Giannini 2016), insectivorous (Amador and Giannini 2021) inhabitants of moist forests (Jansa et al. 2014), specifically of Amazonia (Castro et al. 2021). The first branches to diverge, Calurominae (Caluromys and Caluromysiops) and Glironia, which may (as in here and in Jansa et al. 2014;Amador and Giannini 2016) or may not (Mitchell et al. 2014) fit together in the traditional Caluromyinae, followed different paths, with the former displaced to a central position in morphospace and not much change in the latter (Fig. 4). Hyladelphis and all small didelphids remained in the ancestral marsupial cluster, whereas large (> 350 g) didelphids departed to the region of morphospace characterized by larger, gracile and elongated skulls (+ PC1 -PC2; Figs. 2 and 3). ...
Full-text available
Marsupials represent a major mammalian diversification today restricted geographically to the Americas (but chiefly to the Neotropical Region) and Australasia. The group is highly diverse in morphology, ecology, and habits, and this is reflected to a great extent in cranial morphology. Here, we selected the largest specimens available from a post-weaning developmental series of a large-scale ongoing ontogenetic study to generate a linear multivariate morphospace of the skull of living marsupials. This sample comprised 106 species covering most living clades, and we used a basic set of measurements that estimate dimensions of major skull structures. We specified some predictions suited for a diverse but ancient group with an allopatric distribution. The cranial morphospace of living marsupials was low-dimensional, dominated by size/allometric as well as shape trends of robustness versus gracility and elongation versus depth. Phylogenetic structuring was present, especially in relation to diprotodontians, and the ecological imprint of patterns in phylomorphospace was marked. Evolutionary convergence was statistically detectable between selected species clusters combining Neotropical and Australasian species, chiefly among animalivorous forms but also in predominantly phytophagous arboreal possums and woolly opossums. Convergence among Australian large grazers may be influenced or limited by interspecific competition. Evolutionary divergence was remarkable in some groups, but evolutionary rates varied greatly across divergent forms. Some space voids may be due to extinction; fossil forms are expected to fill in these voids, expand the realized morphospace, and perhaps increase intra- and intercontinental convergence.
... Despite showing skull morphometric differences among them when a restricted set of Didelphis species are studied (Cerqueira and Lemos, 2000;Lemos and Cerqueira, 2002;Ventura et al., 2002), overlapping skull shape and size are observed when all species are compared simultaneously (Astúa, 2015b). Although most molecular-based phylogenies also failed to provide significant support for the relationships among white-eared opossums (Amador and Giannini, 2016;Dias and Perini, 2018), a recent mitogenome-based phylogeny seem to provide support and resolution to the relationships among Didelphis species of this group (Dias et al., 2020). ...
... Maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees based on satDNA sequences returned mixed results. The two tree topologies inferred by sat206 and by a segment >900 bp from sat1430 (Figure 3) are concordant with the topologies presented in previous studies (Amador and Giannini, 2016;Dias and Perini, 2018;Dias et al., 2020), in which D. virginiana is recovered as the sister taxon to the remaining Didelphis species and both black-eared and white-eared opossums species groups are recovered as monophyletic. Although the phylogenetic relationships among species are not well supported in the analysis based on sat206, most of them showed elevated support (bootstrap ≥ 95) on the tree inferred from sat1430 ( Figure 3) and, in both cases, the relationships among white-eared opossums are in agreement with the results of Dias et al. (2020), presenting D. albiventris as the sister taxon to a clade comprising D. imperfecta and D. pernigra. ...
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Didelphis species have been shown to exhibit very conservative karyotypes, which mainly differ in their constitutive heterochromatin, known to be mostly composed by repetitive DNAs. In this study, we used genome skimming data combined with computational pipelines to identify the most abundant repetitive DNA families of Lutreolina crassicaudata and all six Didelphis species. We found that transposable elements (TEs), particularly LINE-1, endogenous retroviruses, and SINEs, are the most abundant mobile elements in the studied species. Despite overall similar TE proportions, we report that species of the D. albiventris group consistently present a less diverse TE composition and smaller proportions of LINEs and LTRs in their genomes than other studied species. We also identified four new putative satDNAs (sat206, sat907, sat1430 and sat2324) in the genomes of Didelphis species, which show differences in abundance and nucleotide composition. Phylogenies based on satDNA sequences showed well supported relationships at the species (sat1430) and groups of species (sat206) level, recovering topologies congruent with previous studies. Our study is one of the first attempts to present a characterization of the most abundant families of repetitive DNAs of Lutreolina and Didelphis species providing insights into the repetitive DNA composition in the genome landscape of American marsupials.
... The Ameridelphian cranium morphospace does not reach the specialized carnivorous morphospace, as does the Australidelphian morphospace (increase of zygomatic arch width, breadth between molars and molar series, and decrease of premolar series; see PC2 of Fig. 3), and neither their larger sizes (PC1 of Fig. 3 and 4). Furthermore, the Australasian clade includes larger predatory forms, like the Tasmanian devil and the recently extinct thylacine, which are significantly larger than any living opossum (Amador and Giannini 2016;Rose et al. 2017;this chapter). Meanwhile, insectivorous adaptations seem to be consistent in both groups that evolved a large proportion of small-sized taxa (Figs. 3 and 4;Fisher and Dickman 1993;Prevosti et al. 2012). ...
Marsupials have a long evolutionary history of diversification in the Southern Hemisphere, where they expanded geographic distribution from America through Antarctica, reaching Australasia. American and Australasian marsupials have mostly evolved and diversified independently, albeit sharing some evolutionary patterns of morphological variation. Based on morphological traits of the cranium and the mandible, it was found that marsupial phenotypic variation significantly correlates with dietary adaptions along a size gradient from small insectivorous taxa, toward intermediate omnivores and then larger carnivores. This variation is phylogenetically structured in both biogeographical groups. Evolutionary rates in cranial morphology do not differ between American and Australasian marsupials; however differences occur in the mandible with Australasian species evolving at faster rates than American ones. This is probably the result of larger size variation associated to functional demands in producing stronger bite force by the largest carnivorous taxa within this clade.
... The genus Didelphis comprises five species of New World marsupials: Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), Brazilian common opossum (Didelphis aurita), common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), white-eared opossum (Didelphis albiventris), Guianan white-eared opossum (Didelphis imperfecta), and Andean white-eared opossum (Didelphis pernigra) (Amador and Giannini 2016;Cerqueira and Tribe 2008). The Brazilian common opossum inhabits Atlantic and Araucaria forests, occurring primarily along the eastern coast of Brazil (Astua de Moraes et al. 2015). ...
Albinism has been sporadically recorded in Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) in the United States and Mexico, but records of pigmentation disorders in other Didelphis spp. are rare. The Brazilian common opossum (Didelphis aurita) is a cat-sized nocturnal omnivorous marsupial that inhabits Atlantic and Araucaria forests in South America. A litter of five young Brazilian common opossums was rescued at Espírito Santo state, southeast Brazil, of which two were albinos (one male, one female) and the remaining had normal pigmentation (three males). The two albinos had a complete lack of integumentary and retinal pigmentation, representing the first recorded cases of albinismin this species (and the first record in a Didelphis sp. other than the Virginia opossum).
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The current literature on marsupial phylogenetics includes numerous studies based on analyses of morphological data with limited sampling of Recent and fossil taxa, and many studies based on analyses of molecular data with dense sampling of Recent taxa, but few studies have combined both data types. Another dichotomy in the marsupial phylogenetic literature is between studies focused on New World taxa and those focused on Sahulian taxa. To date, there has been no attempt to assess the phylogenetic relationships of the global marsupial fauna based on combined analyses of morphology and molecular sequences for a dense sampling of Recent and fossil taxa. For this report, we compiled morphological and molecular data from an unprecedented number of Recent and fossil marsupials. Our morphological data consist of 180 craniodental characters that we scored for 97 terminals representing every currently recognized Recent genus, 42 additional ingroup (crown-clade marsupial) terminals represented by well-preserved fossils, and 5 outgroups (nonmarsupial metatherians). Our molecular data comprise 24.5 kb of DNA sequences from whole-mitochondrial genomes and six nuclear loci (APOB, BRCA1, GHR, RAG1, RBP3 and VWF) for 97 marsupial terminals (the same Recent taxa scored for craniodental morphology) and several placental and monotreme outgroups. The results of separate and combined analyses of these data using a wide range of phylogenetic methods support many currently accepted hypotheses of ingroup (marsupial) relationships, but they also underscore the difficulty of placing fossils with key missing data (e.g., Evolestes), and the unique difficulty of placing others that exhibit mosaics of plesiomorphic and autapomorphic traits (e.g., Yalkaparidon). Unique contributions of our study are (1) critical discussions and illustrations of marsupial craniodental morphology including features never previously coded for phylogenetic analysis; (2) critical assessments of relative support for many suprageneric clades; (3) estimates of divergence times derived from tip-and-node dating based on uniquely taxon-dense analyses; and (4) a revised, higher-order classification of marsupials accompanied by lists of supporting craniodental synapomorphies. Far from the last word on these topics, this report lays the foundation for future research that may be enabled by the discovery of new fossil taxa, better-preserved material of previously described taxa, novel morphological characters (e.g., from the postcranium), and improved methods of phylogenetic analysis.
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Didelphidae is the largest New World radiation of marsupials, and is mostly represented by arboreal, small- to medium-sized taxa that inhabit tropical and/or subtropical forests. The group originated and remained isolated in South America for millions of years, until the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. In this study, we present the first reconstruction of the biogeographic history of Didelphidae including all major clades, based on parametric models and stratified analyses over time. We also compiled all the pre-Quaternary fossil records of the group, and contrasted these data to our biogeographic inferences, as well as to major environmental events that occurred in the South American Cenozoic. Our results indicate the relevance of Amazonia in the early diversification of Didelphidae, including the divergence of the major clades traditionally ranked as subfamilies and tribes. Cladogeneses in other areas started in the late Miocene, an interval of intense shifts, especially in the northern portion of Andes and Amazon Basin. Occupation of other areas continued through the Pliocene, but few were only colonized in Quaternary times. The comparison between the biogeographic inference and the fossil records highlights some further steps towards better understanding the spatiotemporal evolution of the clade. Finally, our results stress that the early history of didelphids is obscured by the lack of Paleogene fossils, which are still to be unearthed from low-latitude deposits of South America.
The ecological spatial landscape pattern of urban waters is not only a sign of the urbanization process but also a prerequisite for promoting the sustainable development of the city, in order to improve the ecological landscape construction of urban waters and promote the sustainable development of ecological cities, propose a study on the scale effect, and change characteristics of the ecological landscape pattern of urban waters. This study selected two areas composed of four ecological water landscapes in the City of Nanchang as research objects. The landscape elements are obtained through remote sensing technology, and vector machine classification is used to ensure the accuracy of the classification. Quantitative calculations of spatial patterns and characteristics are carried out on the basis of 5 category level indexes and 6 landscape level indexes, and spatial effect analysis is carried out using granularity setting and amplitude changes. For the magnitude effect of the test type level index, the landscapes C and D in zone 1 have peak values, which are 12km and 24km, respectively. The landscapes C and D of area 2 have peaks at 9km and 24km respectively, but the overall trend of change is relatively stable. The growth trend of landscape B in the two study areas is the most obvious, crossing landscape D and landscape A at 15km and 21km respectively. With the increase of particle size, the three types of indexes of NP, PD, and LSI of landscape B and C all show significant particle size effect, and the best particle size is 30m. With the increase in amplitude, the four indexes of PLAND, NP, PD, and LSI have strong amplitude effects. Landscape A gradually increases with the increase of the spatial scope, while the proportion of landscape B, C, and D gradually decreases, and the proportion of landscape D is the smallest. The above results confirm that the method in this paper has good results in the analysis of the scale effect and change characteristics of the urban water ecological landscape pattern, and it has certain reference value in the ecological construction of urban waters.
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Jaw morphology is closely linked to both diet and biomechanical performance, and jaws are one of the most common Mesozoic mammal fossil elements. Knowledge of the dietary and functional diversity of early mammals informs on the ecological structure of palaeocommunities throughout the longest era of mammalian evolution: the Mesozoic. Here, we analyse how jaw shape and mechanical advantage of the masseter (MAM) and temporalis (MAT) muscles relate to diet in 70 extant and 45 extinct mammals spanning the Late Triassic-Late Cretaceous. In extant mammals, jaw shape discriminates well between dietary groups: insectivores have long jaws, carnivores intermediate to short jaws, and herbivores have short jaws. Insectivores have low MAM and MAT, carnivores have low MAM and high MAT, and herbivores have high MAM and MAT. These traits are also informative of diet among Mesozoic mammals (based on previous independent determinations of diet) and set the basis for future ecomorphological studies.
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We describe Thylophorops lorenzinii sp. nov. (Marsupialia, Didelphidae), the largest known didelphid opossum, living or extinct. Its type specimen comes from Late Pliocene levels at Punta San Andrés, southeastern Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. With an estimated body mass between 4.8 and 7.4 kg, it obviously surpasses that of the (up to now) largest didelphid, the living Didelphis virginiana Kerr. In addition to its larger size, the new species differs from T. chapalmalensis Ameghino and T. perplanus Ameghino in that its lower molars have more labially salient hypoconids and proportionally large hypoconulids which are not antero-posteriorly compressed.
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Em 1996 foi publicada a primeira revisão consolidada sobre a diversidade de espécies de mamíferos no Brasil. Aqui, mantivemos a estrutura padrão da publicação de 1996, porém incorporando algumas informações adicionais, como a indicação do número de espécies por gênero e por família, o nome comum em português e inglês, a indicação de endemismo no Brasil, e se a espécie possui ou não distribuição geográfica restrita (menor que 50 mil km2). A revisão da lista indica a ocorrência no Brasil de 701 espécies de mamíferos, distribuídos em 243 Gêneros, 50 Famílias e 12 Ordens. Seguindo o padrão global, as ordens mais especiosas são Rodentia e Chiroptera, com respectivamente 34,7% e 24,8% das espécies de mamíferos brasileiras. A lista de 1996 apontava um total de 524 espécies, tendo havido, portanto um incremento nominal de quase 34% no número de espécies. A diferença de 177 espécies é parcialmente explicada pela descrição de novas espécies. O restante da diferença entre as duas edições da lista é provavelmente consequência dos avanços na compreensão da taxonomia, filogenia e biogeogra a das espécies, propiciados por revisões sistemáticas atuais, muitas vezes incluindo modernas técnicas de biologia molecular.
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All species of fossil marsupials belonging to the genus Hyperdidelphys Ameghino, 1904 (Didelphidae, Didelphinae, Didelphini) are analyzed and rediagnosed. Several taxa previously referred to this genus are discussed and excluded from it. The biostratigraphic significance of the species of Hyperdidelphys in the Late Cenozoic of Southern South America remains unclear: their record in Neogene levels is unfrequent, the identification of two of the four species (H. parvula and H. inexpectata) is complex on the basis of known materials, and the biochrones of three of them are not restricted but include relatively wide time spans. Carnivorous adaptations of species of Hyperdidelphys correlate with the decline of Sparassodont marsupials in late Miocene-Pliocene times, a process that was previous to the arrival in South Africa of immigrant placental carnivores of Holarctic origin by the stablishment of the intercontinental Panamanian land bridge.
Body size is of fundamental importance in understanding macroevolutionary patterns, both for extant taxa and for those with a fossil record. In this paper we describe four different kinds of body-size evolution: autapomorphic giantism, autapomorphic nanism, phyletic giantism, and phyletic nanism. The terms giantism and nanism are preferred here rather than the frequently, although incorrectly used equivalents, gigantism and dwarfism, respectively. We assert that without a known phylogeny, it is difficult or impossible to differentiate these four different kinds of body-size evolution. Case examples are presented for two groups: varanid lizards (family Varanidae) and fossil horses (family Equidae). Previous hypotheses of body-size evolution within the Varanidae suggested that there were several cladogenic events in which some groups and isolated species became large. The most recent phylogeny of Varanidae based on mtDNA suggests otherwise. Mapping the known total body lengths onto the phylogeny indicates that varanids were already getting large early in their evolutionary history, with the crown group, Odatria, becoming secondarily small on mainland Australia. Although hypothesized as a giant island varanid, the komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is discovered to be nested within a clade in which the basalmost taxon (V. salvadorii), also endemic to an island, reaches body lengths similar to those of the komodo dragon. Review of the Varanidae suggests that caution should be taken when characterizing taxa as island giants/dwarfs without first reviewing a phylogeny. Fossil horses (family Equidae) are frequently cited in the literature, as well as depicted in museums, as prime examples of Cope's rule, i.e., a gradual trend toward body-size increase over time. Several recent parsimony analyses have resolved many of the phylogenetic interrelationships of North American fossil horses and have elucidated their patterns of body-size evolution. In light of these new analyses, there is no evidence for Cope's rule in fossil horses. In fact, the evolution of large body size occurred multiple times in fossil horses and exemplifies autapomorphic giantism. Body-size decrease, oftentimes considered the exception to Cope's rule, is actually widespread within multiple clades of fossil horses and is characterized by both autapomorphic and phyletic nanism. The result of our analysis suggests that studies of body-size evolution must be intimately tied to a phylogeny before distinct patterns, if any, can be discerned. Cope's rule is not applicable to the two case examples presented herein, calling into question the most frequently cited mode of body size evolution.
Background Long before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas and Australasia, indigenous peoples were familiar with marsupials and some of their unusual habits. These earliest natural historians used marsupials for food and garments, and incorporated some into ceremonial traditions and oral histories. Written documentation followed later. The first marsupial brought to European attention was a Brazilian opossum presented in 1500 to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain by the explorer Vincente Yáñez Pinzón. The pouch and the numerous young of this animal led Her Majesty to consider it an ‘incredible mother’ (Archer 1982). Almost half a century later, in 1544, a manuscript probably written by António Galvão, Portuguese Governor of the Moluccas, described the pouch and succession of single young nursed by a ‘ferret-like’ animal that he called kusus (Calaby 1984). This was most likely the ornate cuscus Phalanger ornatus, the only cuscus found in Ternate where Galvão resided. The first Australian marsupial recorded by Europeans was a wallaby, described in 1629 by Dutch seaman Francisco Pelsaert, from the western coast of New Holland. Pelsaert was also intrigued by the pouch, but thought erroneously that the young grew directly out of the nipples in the pouch’s protective shroud. Marsupials remained objects of curiosity for centuries after their discovery by Europeans, with many thousands of unfortunate animals being shipped back to the Old World for menageries, zoos and private collections.
Size is the single most important factor affecting physiology, locomotion, ecology and behavior of mammals (MacNab, 2007 and citations therein). Understanding evolution of size is important in all organisms, but especially so in cases like bats which exhibit many energetically expensive behaviors (e.g., powered flight, echolocation, long-distance migration), as well as characteristics that represent extreme energy-saving mechanisms (e.g., torpor and hibernation). Most bat species are small: from data in Smith et al. (2004), the central tendency in size in extant bats, as estimated by the median value, is around 14 g (Figure 16.1). However, size in bats as a group spans three orders of magnitude, ranging from 2–3 g (e.g., Craseonycteris, Thyroptera, Furipterus, some vespertilionids; Smith et al., 2004) to a few species exceeding 1 kg (e.g., Acerodon jubatus, Pteropus vampyrus; Kunz and Pierson, 1994). This variation in size scales a number of fundamental traits in bats, including physiological features (e.g., basal metabolic rate; McNab and Bonaccorso, 2001; MacNab, 2003, Speakman and Thomas, 2003); aerodynamic performance (Norberg, 1986, 1990; Rayner, 1986; Watts et al., 2001); dimensions of limb bones and their biomechanical properties (Swartz, 1997, 1998; Swartz and Middleton, 2008); behaviors (e.g., extreme dietary habits like carnivory; Norberg and Fenton, 1988); echolocation call parameters (Jones, 1999); and most life-history traits (e.g., litter mass; Hayssen and Kunz, 1996). These traits likely have an important phylogenetic component of variation, as has been shown, for instance, for the relationship of basal metabolic rate to body mass (Cruz-Neto et al., 2001; cf. MacNab, 2007). Besides the many dependent variables responding to body mass in various ways, size is a fundamental trait that should be understood by itself as an evolving character in bat lineages.