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Inferring kangaroo phylogeny from incongruent nuclear and mitochondrial genes

Phillips, M.J., Haouchar, D, Pratt, R.C., Gibb, G.C. and Bunce, M. (2013) Inferring kangaroo phylogeny from incongruent nuclear and mitochondrial genes. PLoS ONE, 8 (2). e57745.

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The marsupial genus Macropus includes three subgenera, the familiar large grazing kangaroos and wallaroos of M. (Macropus) and M. (Osphranter), as well as the smaller mixed grazing/browsing wallabies of M. (Notamacropus). A recent study of five concatenated nuclear genes recommended subsuming the predominantly browsing Wallabia bicolor (swamp wallaby) into Macropus. To further examine this proposal we sequenced partial mitochondrial genomes for kangaroos and wallabies. These sequences strongly favour the morphological placement of W. bicolor as sister to Macropus, although place M. irma (black-gloved wallaby) within M. (Osphranter) rather than as expected, with M. (Notamacropus). Species tree estimation from separately analysed mitochondrial and nuclear genes favours retaining Macropus and Wallabia as separate genera. A simulation study finds that incomplete lineage sorting among nuclear genes is a plausible explanation for incongruence with the mitochondrial placement of W. bicolor, while mitochondrial introgression from a wallaroo into M. irma is the deepest such event identified in marsupials. Similar such coalescent simulations for interpreting gene tree conflicts will increase in both relevance and statistical power as species-level phylogenetics enters the genomic age. Ecological considerations in turn, hint at a role for selection in accelerating the fixation of introgressed or incompletely sorted loci. More generally the inclusion of the mitochondrial sequences substantially enhanced phylogenetic resolution. However, we caution that the evolutionary dynamics that enhance mitochondria as speciation indicators in the presence of incomplete lineage sorting may also render them especially susceptible to introgression.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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