Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 95–105 | Cite as

Evolution of the Monotremes: Phylogenetic Relationship to Marsupials and Eutherians, and Estimation of Divergence Dates Based on α-Lactalbumin Amino Acid Sequences

  • Michael Messer
  • Anthony S. Weiss
  • Denis C. Shaw
  • Michael Westerman


The amino acid sequences of the α-lactalbumins of the echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus, and the platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, were compared with each other and with those of 13 eutherian and 3 marsupial species. Phylogenetic parsimony analyses, in which selected mammalian lysozymes were used as outgroups, yielded trees whose consensus indicated that the two monotremes are sister taxa to marsupials and eutherians and that the latter two clades are each other's closest relatives. The data do not support the notion of a Marsupionta (monotreme–marsupial) clade. Pairwise comparison between the α-lactalbumins yielded maximum-likelihood distances from which divergence dates were estimated on the basis of three calibration points. The distance data support the view that the echidna and platypus lineages diverged from their last common ancestor at least 50 to 57 Ma (million years ago) and that monotremes diverged from marsupials and eutherian mammals about 163 to 186 Ma.

monotremes echidna platypus phylogeny α-lactalbumin lysozyme 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Messer
  • Anthony S. Weiss
  • Denis C. Shaw
  • Michael Westerman

There are no affiliations available

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