Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
The order Dasyuromorphia includes 23 genera and 71 species of carnivorous marsupials in three families: Dasyuridae (dasyurids), Myrmecobiidae (numbats), and Thylacinidae (thylacinids). Both Myrmecobiidae and Thylacinidae contain a single recent species, while Dasyuridae contains many species. The single species within Thylacinidae (Tasmanian wolf) is likely extinct. Dasyurids and thylacinids are more related to each other than they are to numbats.
In Australia, the oldest known members of the order Dasyuromorphia originated from south Queensland at least 55 million years ago. However, little is known about their evolution between the late Paleocene (55 mya) and the late Oligocene (about 24 mya). Fossil records are abundant from the early Miocene (23 to 16 mya), as the warm and wet greenhouse period resulted in high levels of diversity in rainforest communities. As rainfall decreased around 15 mya and Australia became cooler and drier, there was a steady and rapid increase in diversity of dasyuromorphs. Thereafter, with the arrival of humans and increased aridity, family-level diversity declined to the present level.