Molecular evolution in Australasian marsupials

Westerman Lab

Lab head

Mike WestermanDr Mike Westerman

Adjunct Professor, College of Science, Health and Engineering

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My research interests centre primarily on the reconstruction and understanding of the phylogenetic relationships of Australasian marsupials using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data as well as morphological data to facilitate our understanding of marsupial evolution and biogeography.

Molecular phylogenetics of dasyurids

The family dasyuridae includes over 65 species of carnivorous/insectivorous marsupials from Australia and New Guinea. They occupy almost all Australasian habitats from rainforests to the arid interior. Ongoing collaboration with Dr C. Krajewski (SIU, Carbondale, Illinois) is aimed at reconstructing phylogenetic relationships of all species using DNA sequences to clarify palaeobiological and biogeographical history of the group.

Molecular relationships of bandicoots

More than any other group of Australian marsupials, the relationships of bandicoots are poorly understood at both inter- and intra-ordinal levels and this is of importance as virtually every species has been adversely impacted by European settlement in Australia. Our studies have included both extant and recently extinct taxa (using material from museum specimens of extinct animals). Detailed studies on some widespread New Guinean species have suggested the presence of hidden genetic variability and the necessity for major taxonomic reappraisals. This work includes major collaborations with Dr Ben Kear (University of Uppsala, Sweden).

Interordinal relationships of marsupials and the phylogenetic relationships of diprotodontian marsupials

Collaborative work with Dr M Springer and Dr Robert Meredith (U. C.,Riverside, California) is aimed at elucidating the molecular phylogenetic relationships of marsupial orders as well as the interrelationships of diprotodontia. In particular we are interested in understanding the relationships of such enigmatic taxa as the marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops) the South American monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides) and the Western Australian Honey Possum (Tarsipes rostrata).