Peramelemorphia


Peramelemorphia

Taxobox
name = Peramelemorphia
fossil_range = Late Oligocene - Recent



image_width = 250px
image_caption = a short-nosed bandicoot ("Isoodon" spp.)
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
infraclassis = Marsupialia
ordo = Peramelemorphia
ordo_authority = Ameghino, 1889
subdivision_ranks = Families
subdivision =
ThylacomyidaeChaeropodidae
Peramelidae
The order Peramelemorphia includes the bandicoots and bilbies: it equates approximately to the mainstream of marsupial omnivores. All members of the order are endemic to the twin land masses of Australia-New Guinea and most have the characteristic bandicoot shape: a plump, arch-backed body with a long, delicately tapering snout, very large upright ears, relatively long, thin legs, and a thin tail. Their size varies from about 140 grams up to 2 kilograms, but most species are about the weight of a half-grown kitten: somewhere around one kilogram.

Evolutionary relationships

The position of the Peramelemorphia within the marsupial family tree has long been puzzling and controversial. There are two morphological features in the order that appear to show a clear evolutionary link with another marsupial group: the type of foot, and the teeth. Unfortunately, these clear signposts point in opposite directions!

All members of the order are polyprotodont (have several pairs of lower front teeth)—in the case of the Peramelemorphia, three pairs. This suggests that they have evolved from the Dasyuromorphia (marsupial carnivores). On the other hand, they also have an unusual feature in their feet: the second and third toes are fused together. This condition is called "syndactyly", and is characteristic of the Diprotodontia (the order of marsupial herbivores that includes kangaroos, wombats, possums, and many others).

Attempts to resolve this puzzle include the view that the bandicoot group evolved from the carnivores, retaining the polyprotodont dentition, and independently evolving a syndactyl hind foot; the contrary view that syndactyly is so unusual that it is unlikely to have evolved twice and therefore the bandicoot group must have evolved from a possum-like diprotodont creature, and re-evolved its extra teeth. A third view suggests that the bandicoot group evolved from a primitive carnivore, developed the syndactylous hind foot as a specialisation for climbing, and the diprotodonts then split off and evolved the two-tooth jaw that gives them their name. Recent molecular level investigations do not so far appear to have resolved the puzzle, but do strongly suggest that whatever the relationship of the bandicoot group to the other marsupial orders may be, it is a distant one.

Classification

To provide context, the table below also shows the other major branches of the Australasian marsupial tree.

* Order Microbiotheria: (1 species, the Monito del Monte of South America)
* Order Dasyuromorphia: (marsupial carnivores, 71 species in 3 families)
* ORDER PERAMELEMORPHIA: bandicoots and bilbies (20 extant species, 3 extinct)
** Family Thylacomyidae: (bilbies, 1 extant species, 1 extinct)
** Family †Chaeropodidae: (Pig-footed Bandicoot, 1 extinct species)
** Family Peramelidae: (bandicoots, 19 extant species, 1 extinct)
*** Subfamily Peramelinae
*** Subfamily Peroryctinae
*** Subfamily Echymiperinae
** Superfamily †Yaraloidea
*** Family †Yaralidae: (2 described fossil species)
* Order Notoryctemorphia (2 species of marsupial mole)
* Order Diprotodontia (about 117 species in 11 families, including the Koala, wombats, possums, rat kangaroos, kangaroos, wallabies and others.)

References

*MSW3 Groves|pages=38-42


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