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Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 59(3)

Cryptic grey-bellied dunnart (Sminthopsis griseoventer) discovered in South Australia: genetic, morphological and subfossil analyses show the value of collecting voucher material

Catherine M. Kemper A F, Steven J. B. Cooper B C, Graham C. Medlin A, Mark Adams B C, David Stemmer A, Kathleen M. Saint B, Matthew C. McDowell A D and Jeremy J. Austin E

A Mammal Section, South Australian Museum, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.
B Evolutionary Biology Unit, South Australian Museum, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.
C Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and School of Earth and Environmental Science, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.
D School of Biological Science, Flinders University of South Australia, PO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.
E Australian Centre for Ancient DNA and School of Earth and Environmental Science, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.
F Corresponding author. Email: Catherine.Kemper@samuseum.sa.gov.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 59(3) 127-144 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO11037
Submitted: 26 May 2011  Accepted: 23 September 2011   Published: 23 November 2011


 
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Abstract

The assumption that almost all mammal species are known to science has led to a recent trend away from collecting voucher specimens/tissues during field studies. Here we present a case study of a recently discovered cryptic marsupial (Sminthopsis griseoventer) in South Australia (SA) and show how such collections can contribute to rigorous biodiversity and biogeographic assessments. Morphological and genetic (allozyme and mitochondrial control region (CR) sequence data) analyses, including ancient DNA analyses of type material, were applied to 188 voucher specimens and 94 non-vouchered tissues of Sminthopsis held at the SA Museum. These data were used to confirm the presence of S. griseoventer in SA, validate means of identifying it morphologically and describe recent and pre-European distributions. Pelage differences between S. griseoventer and S. dolichura enabled their identification, but external measurements overlapped considerably. Subfossil S. griseoventer were identified from seven deposits and confirmed that in the past the species was more widespread in SA. CR divergences (>1.8%) among Western Australian and SA S. griseoventer suggested its long-term presence in SA. Discrepancies between the mitochondrial and allozyme affinities of S. aitkeni and S. griseoventer, coupled with the lack of obvious morphological differences, indicate that a taxonomic reappraisal of these species is warranted. The study strongly demonstrates an ongoing need for the routine collection of mammal voucher material in biological and environmental impact surveys.

Additional keywords: allozyme electrophoresis, dasyurid, distribution, mitochondrial control region, paratype, Sminthopsis aitkeni, Sminthopsis dolichura, taxonomy.


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