Molecular Relationships of the New Guinean Bandicoot Genera Microperoryctes and Echymipera (Marsupialia: Peramelina)
The pig-footed bandicoot, Chaeropus ecaudatus, is presumed to be extinct as no specimens have been collected or seen since early this century. Usually classified as a specialized member of the family Peramelidae, there is nevertheless still some doubt as to its taxonomic affinities, because this animal is highly specialized and shows several uniquely derived characters. We report here the first attempt to determine the molecular relationships of this animal using mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequences derived from spirit-preserved museum specimens. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the sequence derived from the Chaeropus sample is clearly that of a bandicoot. Within the bandicoot clade, the pig-footed bandicoot is quite distinct from all other taxa. Divergence-time estimates from the 12S rRNA sequences suggest that Chaeropus diverged from the other bandicoot genera in the late Oligocene or early Miocene and that bandicoots diverged from other Australian families in the late Paleocene–early Eocene.