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Genetic variation and geographical structure of five mouse-sized opossums (Marsupialia, Didelphidae) throughout the Guiana Region

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Abstract Aim and location 

To study the patterns of genetic variation and geographical structure of five forest-dwelling didelphid species distributed throughout the Guiana Region (Marmosops parvidens, M. pinheiroi, Monodelphis brevicaudata, Marmosa murina, Micoureus demerarae) and place the results for wide-ranging species (M. murina, M. demerarae) in the broader geographical context of the rest of the taxon ranges based on published data. Methods 

Variation in the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene were analysed in order to assess intra-specific sequence divergence as well as haplotypic and nucleotide diversity among populations. Relationships between haplotypes were inferred by cladistic (maximum parsimony) and probabilistic (maximum likelihood) approaches, allowing comparisons between tree topologies and patterns of populations geographical distribution. Results 

Phylogenetic analysis of the Guiana Region populations suggest the lack of common patterns of geographical structure among mouse-sized opossums except for both Marmosops species. Marmosops parvidens and M. pinheiroi showed individuals from Surinam strongly related with those from Guyana, and haplotypes from French Guiana having a basal position. Concerning Micoureus demerarae, haplotypes from Venezuela were positioned as ancestral, in contrast with Monodelphis brevicaudata, whose French Guiana haplotypes were clustered in a basal position. No evidence of geographical structure was observed for Marmosa murina. Genetic variation within Guiana Region populations fluctuated between 1% for M. murina and 7% in the case of M. brevicaudata. Regarding the widely distributed species, phylogeographical structure at the scale of the Amazon Basin suggests that Guiana Region populations are the sister group of south-eastern Amazonian and Atlantic Forest populations, thus resulting in an eastern clade well separated from the western Amazonian regions. Main conclusions 

Monophyly of mouse-sized opossums haplotypes over the Guiana Region confirms the presence of a well-differentiated zoogeographical area relative to other Amazonia bioregions. Low genetic diversity among Guiana Region samples suggests a relatively recent origin of populations dating from later Miocene and Pleistocene periods. Moreover, nucleotide and haplotypic diversity values suggest an evolutionary scenario of rapid population growth and dispersal over the Guiana territory, from an ancestral population with small effective size. Dispersal events – rather than vicariance – seem to be responsible for the present genetic and phylogeographical patterns observed in the Guiana Region.
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Keywords: Didelphidae; Escudo Guyanés; Guiana Region; cytochrome b; cytocromo-b; didélfidos; filogeografía; genetic variation; phylogeography; variación genética

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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