Systematics, and Biogeography of Cuscuses (Diprotodontia: Phalangeridae)

Three orders of gliding mammals have evolved: Rodentia, Dermoptera, and Marsupialia. The gliding habit is thought to have developed separately in a number of marsupial taxa. Diprotodontia is the biggest and most biologically diversified of the seven orders of marsupials. There are presently around 125 extant diprotodontian species. The majority of diprotodontians are herbivorous, however there are those that are nectarivorous, folivorous, or insect-omnivorous. Brushtailed possums (Trichosurus), scaly tailed possums (Wyulda), and cuscuses (Phalanger, Strigocuscus, Spilocuscus, and Ailurops) are among the roughly 24 extinct and extant species of the Phalangeridae family (Raterman et al., 2006). Trichosurus and Wyulda are mostly found in Australia, but Phalanger and Spilocuscus are mostly found in Maluku, Papua New Guinea, Timor Island, and nearby islands (Flannery, 1994). Widayanti et al., 2015; 2020; Kunda et al., 2016; 2017). Strigocuscus species may be found in Sulawesi and the adjacent islands (Flannery 1994). Ailurops is home to only one species, Ailurops ursinus, the bear cuscus (Flannery et al. 1987), which may be found in Sulawesi and adjacent islands. Ailurops ursinus and Strigocuscus celebensis are two species whose phylogenetic positions are crucial for understanding evolutionary connections.

Phalangeridae is the family within Order Diprotodontia that has created the most phylogenetic and taxonomic uncertainty, whether based on morphological or biochemical evidence (Kirsch and Wolman, 2001; Ruedas and Morales, 2005). The varied evolutionary connections for this family have resulted in distinct biogeographic hypotheses in terms of origin (Australia or Sulawesi) and dispersion pathways (Australia to Sulawesi or Sulawesi to Australia) from Sulawesi to Australia, and extending to other islands), for taxa belonging to the same family (Ruedas and Morales, 2005). According to Case et al. (2008), oligocene deposits in South Australia from the Etadunna and Wipajiri formations in the Lake Eyre Basin, and the Namba Formation in the Frome Basin, have yielded a wide variety and the oldest records of most of the extinct and surviving possum families. According to Archer (1987), no positive signs of Phalangeridae have been found in Etadunna Formation deposits. Springer et al. (1990; 1997) also observed that the lack of Phalangeridae in the late oligocene was puzzling because prior molecular research that obtained divergence time estimates from molecular sequences, The Phalangeridae lineage should have existed by the Eocene, according to the evidence.

Author(s) Details

Rony Marsyal Kunda
Department of Biology, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science, Universitas Pattimura, Ambon City, Indonesia.

Rini Widayanti
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta City, Indonesia.

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