Skip to main content
Log in

The Palmar and Plantar Anatomy of Dromiciops gliroides Thomas, 1894 (Marsupialia, Microbiotheria) and its Relationship to Australian Marsupials

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Journal of Mammalian Evolution Aims and scope Submit manuscript


The monito del monte Dromiciops gliroides Thomas, 1894, is a marsupial endemic to the temperate rainforests of Argentina and Chile. Studies on its phylogenetic relationships show the species is more closely related to Australian marsupials than to any other American taxon. The study of the palmar and plantar anatomy in this species through direct observation of more than 86 specimens and comparisons with American and Australian marsupials show the pattern of D. gliroides is derived from the ancestral mammalian pattern. Dromiciops gliroides show the presence of a single palmar/plantar pad in the position of interdigital pad 1 and the lack of a thenar pad (or the complete fusion between both pads), a pattern that appears closer to some Australian diprotodont marsupials. Also shared with several Australian marsupials is the transverse orientation of pad ridges, a condition that is not shared with most arboreal/scansorial American marsupials (e.g., Caluromys spp., Marmosa spp., Marmosops spp.).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Ade M (1993) Zur Morphologie der Vibrissen, Pinnae, Chiridien un des Rhinarium basaler Säugetiere. Diploma-Thesis, Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Tubingen

    Google Scholar 

  • Archer M (1981) Expeditions No. 104. Systematic revision of the marsupial dasyurid genus Sminthopsis Thomas. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 168:61–224

    Google Scholar 

  • Archer M, Kirsch JAW (2006) The evolution and classification of marsupials. In: Armati PJ, Dickman CR, Hume ID (eds) Marsupials. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–21

    Google Scholar 

  • Ashbaugh DR (1999) Quantitative-Qualitative Friction Ridge Analysis, An Introduction to Basic and Advanced Ridgeology. CRC Press, Boca Raton and New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Asher RJ, Horovitz I, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2004) First combined cladistic analysis of marsupial mammal phylogenetic relationships. Mol Phylogenet Evol 33:240–250

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Astúa D (2015) Order Didelphimorphia. In: Wilson DE, Mittermeier RA (eds) Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 5. Monotremes and Marsupials. Lynx Editions, Barcelona, pp 69–186

    Google Scholar 

  • Burk A, Westerman M, Kao DJ, Kavanagh JR, Springer MS (1999) An analysis of marsupial interordinal relationships based on 12S rRNA, tRNA valine, 16S rRNA, and cytochrome b sequences. J Mammal Evol 6:317–334

  • Burk A, Westerman M, Springer MS (1998) The phylogenetic position of the musky rat-kangaroo and the evolution of bipedal hopping in kangaroos (Macropodidae: Diprotodontia). Syst Biol 47:457–474

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cockburn A (1997) Living slow and dying young: senescence in marsupials. In: Saunders N, Hinds L (eds) Marsupial Biology. Recent Research, New Perspectives. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, pp 163–174

    Google Scholar 

  • Colgan DJ (1999) Phylogenetic studies of marsupials based on phosphoglycerate kinase DNA sequences. Mol Phylogenet Evol 11:13–26

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • D’Elía G, Hurtado N, D’Anatro A (2016) Alpha taxonomy of Dromiciops (Microbiotheriidae) with the description of 2 new species of monito del monte. J Mammal 97:1136–1152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flannery TF (1994) Possums of the World. A Monograph of the Phalangeroidea. GEO Productions, Chatsworth

    Google Scholar 

  • Flores DA, Abdala F, Giannini N (2013) Post-weaning cranial ontogeny in two bandicoots (Mammalia, Peramelomorphia, Peramelidae) and comparison with carnivorous marsupials. Zoology 116:372–384

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Goloboff PA, Farris JS, Nixon KC (2008) TNT, a free program for phylogenetic analysis. Cladistics 24:774–786

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haffner M (1998) A comparison of the gross morphology and micro-anatomy of the foot pads in two fossorial and two climbing rodents (Mammalia). J Zool 244:287–294

  • Hamrick MW (2001) Morphological diversity in digital skin microstructure of didelphid marsupials. J Anat 198:683–688

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Hepburn D (1895) The papillary ridges on the hands and feet of monkeys and men. Sci Trans Roy Dublin Soc 5:525–538

    Google Scholar 

  • Hershkovitz P (1992) The South American gracile mouse opossums, genus Gracilinanus Gardner and Creighton, 1989 (Marmosidae, Marsupialia): a taxonomic review with notes on general morphology and relationships. Fieldiana Zool 70:1–56

  • Hershkovitz P (1999) Dromiciops gliroides Thomas, 1894, last of the Microbiotheria (Marsupialia), with a review of the family Microbiotheriidae. Fieldiana Zool 93:1–60

  • Horovitz I, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2003) A comprehensive analysis of marsupial higher-level relationships. Cladistics 19:181–212

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kirsch JAW, Lapointe FJ, Springer MS (1997) DNA-hybridisation studies of marsupials and their implications for metatherian classification. Austr J Zool 45:211–280

  • Klaatsch H (1888) Zur Morphologie der Tastballen der Saugetiere. Gegenbaurs Morphol Jahrb 14:407–435

    Google Scholar 

  • Lunde DP, Schutt WA Jr (1999) The peculiar carpal tubercules of male Marmosops parvidens and Marmosa robinsoni (Didelphidae: Didelphinae). Mammalia 63:495–504

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martin GM (2008) Sistemática, distribución y adaptaciones de los marsupiales patagónicos. Dissertation, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin GM (2009) Sobre la identidad de Thylamys (Marsupialia, Didelphidae) del oeste pampeano y centro-sur del espinal, Argentina. Mastozool Neotrop 16:333–346

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin GM (2010) Geographic distribution and historical occurrence o Dromiciops gliroides Thomas (Metatheria, Microbiotheria). J Mammal 91:1025–1035

  • Martin GM (2017) Intraspecific variability and variation in Dromiciops Thomas 1894 (Marsupialia, Microbiotheria, Microbiotheriidae). J Mammal (in press)

  • May-Collado L, Kilpatrick CW, Agnarsson I (2015) Mammals from ‘down under’: a multi-gene species-level phylogeny of marsupial mammals (Mammalia, Metatheria). PeerJ 3:e805;

  • McKay GM (1989) Petauryidae. Ch. 28. In: Walton DW, Richardson BJ (eds) Fauna of Australia Volume 1B. Mammalia. CSIRO Publishing and Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, pp 1–29

    Google Scholar 

  • Munemasa M, Nikaido M, Donnellan S, Austin CC, Okada N, Hasegawa M (2006) Phylogenetic analysis of diprotodontian marsupials based on complete mitochondrial genomes. Genes Genet Syst 81:181–191

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Muñoz-Pedreros A, Lang BK, Bretos M, Meserve PL (2005) Reproduction and development of Dromiciops gliroides (Marsupialia: Microbiotheriidae) in a temperate rainforest of southern Chile. Gayana (Concepc) 69:225–233

    Google Scholar 

  • Nilsson M, Arnason U, Spencer PBS, Janke A (2004) Marsupial relationships and a timeline for marsupial radiation in South Gondwana. Gene 340:189–196

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Palma RE, Spotorno AE (1999) Molecular systematics of marsupials based on the rRNA 12S mitochondrial gene, the phylogeny of Didelphimorphia and of the living fossil microbiotheriid Dromiciops gliroides Thomas. Mol Phylogenet Evol 25:245–253

    Google Scholar 

  • Palma RE, Valladares-Gómez A (2015) Order Microbiotheria. In: Wilson DE, Mittermeier RA (eds) Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 5. Monotremes and Marsupials. Lynx Editions, Barcelona, pp 200–208

    Google Scholar 

  • Patterson BD (2015) Order Paucituberculata. In: Wilson DE, Mittermeier RA (eds) Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 5. Monotremes and Marsupials. Lynx Editions, Barcelona, pp 188–197

    Google Scholar 

  • Phillips MJ, McLenachan PA, Down C, Gibb GC, Penny D (2006) Combined mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences resolve the interrelations of the major Australasian marsupial radiations. Syst Biol 55:122–137

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pocock RI (1921a) The external characters of the koala (Phascolarctos) and some related marsupials. Proc Zool Soc Lond 1921:591–607

  • Pocock RI (1921b) On the external characters and classification of the Mustelidae. Proc Zool Soc Lond 1921:803–837

  • Pocock RI (1922) On the external characters of the beaver (Castoridae) and some squirrels (Sciuridae). Proc Zool Soc Lond 1922:1171–1212

  • Pocock RI (1926) The external characters of Thylacinus, Sarcophilus, and some related marsupials. Proc Zool Soc Lond 1926:1037–1084

  • Pridmore PA (1994) Locomotion in Dromiciops australis (Marsupialia, Microbiotheriidae). Austr J Zool 42:679–699

  • Springer MS, Westerman M, Kavanagh JR, Burk A, Woodburne MO, Kao DJ, Krajewski C (1998) The origin of the Australasian marsupial fauna and the phylogenetic affinities of the enigmatic monito de monte and marsupial mole. Proc Roy Soc Lond B Bio 265:2381–2386

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Szalay FS (1982) A new appraisal of marsupial phylogeny and classification. In: Archer M (ed) Carnivorous Marsupials. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney, pp 621–640

    Google Scholar 

  • Szalay FS (1994) Evolutionary History of the Marsupials and an Analysis of Osteological Characters. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Szalay FS, Sargis EJ (2001) Model-based analysis of postcranial osteology of marsupials from the Palaeocene of Itaboraí (Brazil) and the phylogenetics and biogeography of Metatheria. Geodiversitas 23:139–302

    Google Scholar 

  • Temple-Smith P (1987) Sperm structure and marsupial phylogeny. In: Archer M (ed) Possums and Opossums Studies in Evolution, Surrey Beatty & Sons and the The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney, pp 171–193

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomas O (1894) On Micoureus griseus, Desm., with the description of a new genus and species of Didelphyidae. Ann Mag Nat Hist 6:184–188

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Turner V, McKay GM (1989) Burramyidae. Ch. 27. In: Walton DW, Richardson BJ (eds) Fauna of Australia. Volume 1B. Mammalia. CSIRO Publishing and Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, pp 1–27

  • Tyndale-Biscoe H (2005) Life of Marsupials. CSIRO Publishing, Canberra

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Valladares-Gómez A, Celis-Diez JL, Palma RE, Manríquez GS (2017) Cranial morphological variation of Dromiciops gliroides (Microbiotheria) along its geographical distribution in south-central Chile: a three-dimensional analysis. Mammal Biol 87:107–117

  • Voss RS, Jansa SH (2003) Phylogenetic studies on didelphid marsupials II. Nonmolecular data and new IRBP sequences: separate and combined analyses of Didelphine relationships with denser taxon sampling. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 276:1–82

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Voss RS, Jansa SA (2009) Phylogenetic relationships and classification of didelphid marsupials, an extant radiation of New World metatherian mammals. Bull Amer Mus Nat Hist 322:1–177

  • Whipple IL (1904) The ventral surface of the mammalian chiridium. Z Morphol Anthropol 7:261–368

    Google Scholar 

Download references


I thank curators who granted access to specimens under their care: R. Voss (AMNH); P. Jenkins (BMNH); B. Patterson (FMNH); G. D’Elía (UACH); R. Bárquez (IML); D. Flores (MACN); D. Verzi/M. Merino (MLP); D. Romero (MMP); Frank Zachos and Alexander Bibl (NMW); J. Braun (OMNH); L. Gordon and A. Gardner (USNM). I thank R. Sage and G. Amico for access to the embryos/fetuses at Bariloche, Argentina. I thank F. Goin and M. Tejedor who provided insightful comments that improved several aspects of this manuscript. D. Flores and N. Novo gave advice on character mapping and TNT software. Additional economic support was provided by E. Watkins and M. Simeon.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gabriel M. Martin.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of Interest



Appendix 1

List of specimens analyzed for this study. Acronyms are as follows: BMNH, British Museum of Natural History, London; CML, Colección “Miguel Lillo,” San Miguel de Tucumán; CRUB-M, Centro Regional Universitario Bariloche, Colección de Mamíferos, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Bariloche; FMNH, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; LIEB-M, Laboratorio de Investigaciones en Evolución y Biodiversidad, Colección Mastozoología, Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia “San Juan Bosco,” Esquel; MACN, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia,” Buenos Aires; MMP, Museo de Mar del Plata “Lorenzo Scaglia,” Mar del Plata; NMW, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna; OMNH, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman; RS, Richard Sage collection; UACH, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia; USNM, United States National Museum – Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Dromiciops gliroides: BMNH 22676; BMNH; BMNH–47; BMNH; CRUB-M-011; CRUB-M-013; CRUB-M-015-19; CRUB-M-028; CRUB-M-154; CRUB-M-177; CRUB-M-197-199; FMNH 129815; FMNH 22677; FMNH 127441, FMNH 127452; FMNH 134557; LIEB-M-1529-1531; MACN 48.26; CML 1869; UACH 687–90; UACH 836; UACH 986; UACH 1053; UACH 1056–57; UACH 1059; UACH 1731; UACH 1733–35; UACH 2144–57; UACH 2159–66; UACH 2565; UACH 3129; UACH 3131; UACH 3479–83; UACH 3655–56; UACH 4324; UACH 6161; UACH 6906; UACH 6997–7000; UACH 7027–28. Fetuses/Embryos: RS 18110 (n = 2); RS 18111 (n = 2); RS 18126 (n = 4); RS 18138 (n = 5); RS 18605 (n = 2).

Other marsupial species analyzed: Acrobates pygmaeus: USNM 221334, USNM 221346, USNM 223137, USNM 588353, USNM 588351. Caenolestes spp.: FMNH 72394, FMNH 72395, FMNH 72393, and see Martin (2008). Caluromys spp.: USNM 14812, USNM 4902289, USNM 490227, OMNH 10595, OMNH 9753–4, NMW 28622, NMW 28624. Caluromysiops irrupta: OMNH 2838. Cercartetus nanus: NMW 63158. Cryptonanus spp.: USNM 236329, USNM 236677, USNM 19651. Didelphis spp.: USNM 8317, USNM 391488, USNM 391496, USNM 391500, USNM 391486, USNM 4947, USNM 490497, USNM 261389, USNM 261391, USNM 490528, USNM 522977, USNM 268736, USNM 399450, USNM 259851, USNM 60432, USNM 514482. Gracilinaus spp.: USNM 490248, USNM 490432, USNM 579272, USNM 385017, USNM 370047, OMNH 17359–61, OMNH 17373–74, NMW 28620. Lestodelphys halli: LIEB-M-1532-1533. Lestoros inca: USNM 194938, USNM 194942, USNM 194941, USNM 194943, FMNH 75587, FMNH 172034, FMNH 172036, FMNH 172038, FMNH 172040, FMNH 172041, FMNH 172043. Lutreolina crassicaudata: NMN 536832, USNM 536833, USNM 536834, USNM 536835. Metachirus nudicaudatus: MMP AN210, MMP 1255, MMP 1472, MMP 1475, USNM 391472, USNM 499760, USNM 57756, NMW 30651. Marmosa spp.: USNM 12888, USNM 14629, USNM 549604, USNM 549603, USNM 577748, USNM 577749, USNM 490259, USNM 496526, USNM 4900255, OMNH 37209, OMNH 9751, OMNH 37212–13, NMW 21682, NMW 21683, NMW 33857, NMW 23428, NMW 48888, NMW 48889, NMW 48891, NMW 29578–29,580. Marmosops spp.: USNM 496520, USNM 496517, USNM 577755, USNM 577752, USNM 551523, OMNH 37214, OMNH 37211, OMNH 37210, OMNH 37218, NMW 27464. Monodelphis spp.: USNM 490247, USNM 490246, USNM 490242, USNM 490240, OMNH 17380–81, OMNH 17387, OMNH 17377, OMNH 10596, OMNH 37221–24, NMW 28621. Philander opossum: MMP 57, MMP FN 591, MMP 3902, OMNH 17375. Rhyncholestes raphanurus: MMP 4055, FMNH 129825, FMNH 92832, FMNH 127476, and see Martin (2008). Thylamys spp.: MMP FN8291, MMP 16–7, MMP I10, MMP T33, MMP I397, MMP I399, MMP I404–6, MMP I410, MMP I412–3, MMP I416, MMP I446–9, MMP I451–3, MMP I620–2, MMP I766, MMP 836, MMP 844, MMP 859–63, MMP 875, MMP 2060, MMP 4072, MMP 4075–7, MMP 4079, and see Martin (2008, 2009). Tlacuatzin canescens: USNM 269980, USNM 512672, USNM 510080, OMNH 36199, OMNH 26640–42.

Appendix 2

The morphological data described and analyzed in this report is reproduced below. Missing data are indicated as “?”, and inapplicable characters are indicated as “-”. Square brackets enclose observed polymorphisms.

Geogale 0000[05]1

Tenrec 001153

Tupaia 00[23][23]50

Cryptotis 20000[42]

Caluromys 02220[45]

Caluromysiops 002211

Didelphis 022[23][23]0

Chironectes 3300[23][10]

Lutreolina 02[23][23]?0

Philander 02[23][23]50

Metachirus 00[23]25[45]

Marmosa (including Micoureus) 002251

Monodelphis 122[20]50

Tlacuatzin 00[23][23][23]1

Cryptonanus 0033[23]1

Gracilinanus 00[23][23][14][14]

Lestodelphys 003300

Marmosops 00[23][23][23]1

Thylamys 00[23]35[45]

Caenolestes 100050

Lestoros 100054

Rhyncholestes 10?054

Thylacinus 4400[24][24]

Myrmecobius 11111-

Sarcophilus 0011[24]5

Dasyurus 00335[05]

Phascogale 003355

Sminthopsis 063[13]5[24]

Antechinus 0033?5

Macrotis 5511‐‐

Perameles 5511‐‐

Dromiciops 113311

Phascolarctos 111111

Vombatus 111155

Cercartetus 113311

Burramys 113351

Ailurops 11[23]355

Strigocuscus 113311

Thrichosurus 113311

Wyulda 11[23][23]55

Phalanger 11[23][23]15

Spilocuscus 11[23]311

Hypsiprymnodon 113315

Macropups 5511‐‐

Potorus 5511‐‐

Acrobates 113211

Distoechurus 17[23]311

Tarsipes 113311

Pseudochirops 11[23][23]31

Petropseudes 11[23]311

Pseudocheirus 11[23][23]11

Pseudochirulus 11[23][23]11

Hemibelideus 11[23][23][12]5

Petauroides 18[23]311

Petaurus 113311

Gymnobelideus 113312

Dactylopsila 1733[15]1

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Martin, G.M. The Palmar and Plantar Anatomy of Dromiciops gliroides Thomas, 1894 (Marsupialia, Microbiotheria) and its Relationship to Australian Marsupials. J Mammal Evol 26, 51–60 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: