Integrative taxonomic investigation of Petaurus breviceps (Marsupialia: Petauridae) reveals three distinct species

Teigan Cremona, Andrew M. Baker, Steven J.B. Cooper, Rebecca Montague-Drake, Alyson M. Stobo-Wilson, Susan M. Carthew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Australian sugar glider, Petaurus breviceps s.l., is widely distributed across eastern and northern Australia. Examination of historical and contemporary collections of Petaurus specimens and phylogenetic analyses have revealed considerable taxonomic diversity within the genus. We aimed to utilize an integrative taxonomic approach, combining genetic and morphological evidence, to resolve the taxonomy of Australian gliders currently recognized as Petaurus breviceps. Herein, we confirm the existence of three distinct species: P. breviceps, P. notatus comb. nov. and P. ariel comb. nov. Petaurus breviceps and P. notatus are each represented by major mtDNA lineages in P. breviceps, while P. ariel forms a sister-lineage to P. norfolcensis and P. gracilis. Subtle morphological differences distinguish P. breviceps from the closely related P. notatus, while the morphological distinctions between P. ariel and its genetically similar sister-taxa, P. norfolcensis and P. gracilis, are more obvious. Given the purported broad geographic distribution of the taxon, P. breviceps s.l. was not listed as threatened, but dividing this taxon into three species has important conservation implications for all taxa in the group, particularly given the lamentable record for mammal extinctions in Australia. Concerted and targeted conservation efforts are necessary to preserve these distinct, newly described species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-527
Number of pages25
JournalZoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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