Molecular phylogeny of treeshrews (Mammalia: Scandentia) and the timescale of diversification in Southeast Asia

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Sep;60(3):358-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.04.021. Epub 2011 May 1.


Resolving the phylogeny of treeshrews (Order Scandentia) has historically proven difficult, in large part because of access to specimens and samples from critical taxa. We used "antique" DNA methods with non-destructive sampling of museum specimens to complete taxon sampling for the 20 currently recognized treeshrew species and to estimate their phylogeny and divergence times. Most divergence among extant species is estimated to have taken place within the past 20 million years, with deeper divergences between the two families (Ptilocercidae and Tupaiidae) and between Dendrogale and all other genera within Tupaiidae. All but one of the divergences between currently recognized species had occurred by 4Mya, suggesting that Miocene tectonics, volcanism, and geographic instability drove treeshrew diversification. These geologic processes may be associated with an increase in net diversification rate in the early Miocene. Most evolutionary relationships appear consistent with island-hopping or landbridge colonization between contiguous geographic areas, although there are exceptions in which extinction may play an important part. The single recent divergence is between Tupaia palawanensis and Tupaia moellendorffi, both endemic to the Philippines, and may be due to Pleistocene sea level fluctuations and post-landbridge isolation in allopatry. We provide a time-calibrated phylogenetic framework for answering evolutionary questions about treeshrews and about evolutionary patterns and processes in Euarchonta. We also propose subsuming the monotypic genus Urogale, a Philippine endemic, into Tupaia, thereby reducing the number of extant treeshrew genera from five to four.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Phylogeny*
  • Phylogeography
  • Scandentia / classification*
  • Scandentia / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Mitochondrial