A plethora of planigales: genetic variability and cryptic species in a genus of dasyurid marsupials from northern Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • Multiple mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences reveal substantial genetic variation within the dasyurid marsupial genus Planigale, suggesting greater taxonomic diversity than is currently recognised. To further investigate planigale relationships 116 new mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences, including 16 new specimens, were added to our database. We confirm the presence of an unrecognised species (Planigale ‘species 1’) limited to the Pilbara region of Western Australia and suggest that the ‘Mt Tom Price’ animals may be closely related to Planigale ingrami subtilissima. We also confirm that at least four distinct genetic lineages make up what is currently recognised as P. maculata. This complex of closely related taxa represents a radiation of sibling species rather than a single, genetically diverse one. Three of these lineages (M1 + M2, M3 and M4) are distributed sympatrically across the Top End of Australia and one (M5 = P. maculata sensu stricto) is localised to the eastern coast of Australia. Within the Planigale ingrami complex, Planigale ‘Mt Tom Price’ (lineage Ing. 1) occurs in the Pilbara in sympatry with Planigale ‘species 1’ and lineage Ing. 2 is found in the Northern Territory in sympatry with species of the P. maculata complex. There is thus a plethora of northern Australian planigales, many of which are formally undescribed and whose geographic ranges require careful re-evaluation.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016

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