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Journal Articles Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Year : 2022

The evolution of marsupial social organization

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Abstract

It is generally believed that marsupials are more primitive than placentals mammals and mainly solitary living, representing the ancestral form of social organization of all mammals. However, field studies have observed pair and group-living in marsupial species, but no comparative study about their social evolution was ever done. Here, we describe the results of primary literature research on marsupial social organization which indicates that most species can live in pairs or groups and many show intra-specific variation in social organization. Using Bayesian phylogenetic mixed-effects models with a weak phylogenetic signal of 0.18, we found that solitary living was the most likely ancestral form (35% posterior probability), but had high uncertainty, and the combined probability of a partly sociable marsupial ancestor (65%) should not be overlooked. For Australian marsupials, group-living species were less likely to be found in tropical rainforest, and species with a variable social organization were associated with low and unpredictable precipitation representing deserts. Our results suggest that modern marsupials are more sociable than previously believed and that there is no strong support that their ancestral state was strictly solitary living, such that the assumption of a solitary ancestral state of all mammals may also need reconsideration.
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hal-03880760 , version 1 (01-12-2022)

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J. Qiu, C A Olivier, A. Jaeggi, C. Schradin. The evolution of marsupial social organization. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2022, 289 (1985), ⟨10.1098/rspb.2022.1589⟩. ⟨hal-03880760⟩
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