Phylogenetic evaluation of taxonomic definition of didelphid mouse opossum of the genus Thylamys from valleys of Coquimbo region, Chile
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Only two species of Didelphidae are currently recognized in Chile, the sister species Thylamys elegans, endemic of Mediterranean ecorregion and Thylamys pallidior, the inhabitant of the Puna and desert canyons. Three subspecies have been described for T. elegans: T. e. elegans, T. e. coquimbensis and T. e. soricinus. However, a recent study based on morphological analyses, synonymized T. elegans coquimbensis from the Coquimbo valleys (30-31 degrees S) with T. pallidior and proposed that T. elegans and T. pallidior could be in sympatry at Coquimbo valleys between Fray Jorge (30 degrees 40'S) and Paiguano (30 degrees 02'S). We assess the current definition of T. e. coquimbensis and T. e. elegans, as well as this taxonomical conflict among the mouse opossums from the Coquimbo valleys through phylogenetic analyses of cytochrome b mitochondrial gene sequences. In this study, for the first time, we used specimens from the type localities of T. e. coquimbensis and T. e. elegans. In addition, we analyzed diagnostic cranial structures for this taxonomic revision. The results supported two allopatric clades, allowing us to keep the taxonomic definition of T. e. elegans and T. e. coquimbensis as phylogenetic reciprocal monophyletic clades and polyphyletic with T. pallidior. This result corroborates previous morphological analyses, which support that mouse opossums from the Coquimbo valleys are T. e. coquimbensis, thus extending its geographic distribution to the coast of Coquimbo and Atacama regions. We don't have evidence for sympatric distribution between T. elegans and T. pallidior in the Coquimbo region.
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