Marsupial and Monotreme Evolution And Biogeography

Vera Weisbecker, Robin M.D. Beck

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter provides an evolutionary context to comparative research on monotremes and marsupials. It explains the evolutionary origins of the three major living mammalian clades from within the ancient amniote lineage of synapsids, summarises their most obvious biological differences, and briefly outlines the difference between the terms "Monotremata, Marsupialia and Placentalia" vs. "Prototheria, Metatheria and Eutheria". The living monotreme and marsupial families are introduced via short characterisations of their general biology and evolution. An up-to-date family-level phylogeny is provided for marsupials, together with a summary of our past and current understanding of their phylogenetic relationships. The known fossil record and biogeography of both radiations is summarised; particular attention is given to a recent paradigm shift on monotreme evolution, with the latest research suggesting that monotremes are part of an ancient, Gondwanan radiation of mammals that independently evolved a tribosphenic dentition. The unusual biogeographical history of marsupials and their extinct relatives, including a probable origin in the northern continents and later distribution across South America, Antarctica, and Australia, is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMarsupials and Monotremes
Subtitle of host publicationNature's Enigmatic Mammals
EditorsAthol Klieve, Lindsay Hogan, Stephen Johnston, Peter Murray
Place of PublicationNY
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781634834872
ISBN (Print)9781634829731, 1634829735
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAnimal Science, Issues and Research


  • Biogeography
  • Gondwana
  • Mammalia
  • Marsupialia
  • Marsupionta
  • Metatheria
  • Phylogenetics
  • polyprotodonta
  • Prototheria
  • Synapsida
  • Syndactyla


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