Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Phylogeography of the Australian dunnart Sminthopsis crassicaudata (Marsupialia : Dasyuridae)

S. J. B. Cooper, M. Adams and A. Labrinidis

Australian Journal of Zoology 48(5) 461 - 473
Published: 2000


Analyses of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and allozymes are used to investigate the population genetic structure, phylogeography and systematics of the fat-tailed dunnart, Sminthopsis crassicaudata. Phylogenetic analyses of control region sequences reveal the presence of two major mtDNA haplotype clades. A survey of the distribution of the two clades using diagnostic restriction endonucleases shows that one clade is restricted to southeast Australia whereas the second clade occupies the remaining central to western range of S. crassicaudata. Allozyme electrophoresis also shows concordant patterns of population structure, with significant differences in allele frequency at three loci between populations in the southeast and northwest. Together, the mtDNA and allozyme data provide evidence that S. crassicaudata consists of two Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs). The distribution of each ESU is not concordant with the distribution of the subspecies of S. crassicaudata, and we propose that the current subspecies classification neither reflects the major genetic subdivisions present within S. crassicaudata nor would be appropriate for any future conservation management. The level of divergence between mtDNA clades (3.4%) is indicative of cladogenesis in the Pleistocene and reflects a long-term barrier to maternal gene flow between these two populations. One potential historical barrier was Lake Bungunnia, which persisted in the Murray basin over much of the Pleistocene.

© CSIRO 2000

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