Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 99-135

First online:

Phylogenies of Flying Squirrels (Pteromyinae)

  • Richard W. ThoringtonJrAffiliated withDepartment of Systematic Biology, Smithsonian InstitutionThe Division of Mammals, Smithsonian Institution Email author 
  • , Diane PitassyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Maryland
  • , Sharon A. JansaAffiliated withJames Ford Bell Museum of Natural History and Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior University of Minnesota

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The phylogeny of flying squirrels was assessed, based on analyses of 80 morphological characters. Three published hypotheses were tested with constraint trees and compared with trees based on heuristic searches, all using PAUP*. Analyses were conducted on unordered data, on ordered data (Wagner), and on ordered data using Dollo parsimony. Compared with trees based on heuristic searches, the McKenna (1962) constraint trees were consistently the longest, requiring 8–11 more steps. The Mein (1970) constraint trees were shorter, requiring five to seven steps more than the unconstrained trees, and the Thorington and Darrow (2000) constraint trees were shorter yet, zero to one step longer than the corresponding unconstrained tree. In each of the constraint trees, some of the constrained nodes had poor character support. The heuristic trees provided best character support for three groups, but they did not resolve the basal trichotomy between a Glaucomys group of six genera, a Petaurista group of four genera, and a Trogopterus group of four genera. The inclusion of the small northern Eurasian flying squirrel, Pteromys, in the Petaurista group of giant South Asian flying squirrels is an unexpected hypothesis. Another novel hypothesis is the inclusion of the genus Aeromys, large animals from the Sunda Shelf, with the Trogopterus group of smaller "complex-toothed flying squirrels" from mainland Malaysia and southeast Asia. We explore the implications of this study for future analysis of molecular data and for past and future interpretations of the fossil record.

flying squirrels phylogeny taxonomic history