plants and animals

Scientists uncover two new species of elusive South-American marsupial

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Diego
Almendras

Guest Writer
The monito del monte is a South American marsupial which has no close living relatives in its home range. By assessing anatomical and genetic features of museum specimens, researchers were able to describe two new species of the marsupials in Chile and Argentina.

The monito del monte, Spanish for ‘little bush monkey’, named after its monkey-like partially prehensile tail, is a diminutive marsupial native to South America in the Valdivian temperate rain forests of the southern Andes (Chile and Argentina). It is the only extant species in the ancient order of Microbiotheria. In fact, Monito del Monte is more related to Australian marsupials than to South American marsupials. Genetic studies show that this species retains the most primitive characteristics of its group, and thus is regarded as a “living fossil.” It is a living representative of the first marsupials that populated South America, when the assembly of the supercontinent Gondwana reunited South America, Australia and Antarctica.


In a previous study, researchers showed that the monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides) is split into 3 (three) geographically differentiated groups. Now, using morphological and molecular data from museum collections, Chilean researchers from Austral University of Chile, in collaboration with scientists from Peru and Uruguay, have recently described two new separate species of monito del monte, named Panchos’s monito del monte (Dromiciops bozinovici) and Mondaca’s monito del monte (Dromiciops mondaca). This claim is based on the different skull and dental features between the specimens. The findings are published in the Journal of Mammalogy.


D. mondaca is endemic to the Chilean Coastal Range, while the other new species, D. bozinovici, is distributed over a relatively large area of south-central Chile and nearby Argentina, which is severely fragmented due to human activities. The first species of monito del monte was described in 1984 and is restricted to the southern part of the area including Chiloé Island.


Despite this discovery, several questions regarding its evolutionary history are still unanswered such as the time of divergence from other species, the historical biogeography of the genus and the recent demographic history of each species. More future studies are needed to understand and protect these new species.


Diego Almendras is a marine biology student from Chile. His writings can be found on To Drop Science.


Reference:

D’Elía et al. 2016. Alpha taxonomy of Dromiciops (Microbiotheriidae) with the description of 2 new species of monito del monte. Journal of Mammalogy.

http://jmammal.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/04/19/jmammal.gyw068.article-info

Image Credit: Cristian Benaprés Martinson

6f37c4181e9cd8bcc6f58b7d3719bdcd

Diego
Almendras

Guest Writer


http://sulc.us/4femn
http://www.eartharchives.org/articles/scientists-uncover-two-new-species-of-elusive-south-american-marsupial/