Marsupial Origins

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Science  12 Dec 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5652, pp. 1899-1900
DOI: 10.1126/science.1092272

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The different reproductive systems of marsupial and placental mammals have profound implications for other aspects of their biology. When and where in evolutionary history did the two groups of mammals divide? In their Perspective, Cifelli and Davis discuss recent advances toward answering these questions. He highlights the report of Luo et al., who have discovered the oldest known fossil ancestor of the marsupials. The fossil provides important insights into the biology of the early marsupial ancestors and helps to define the time of divergence from placentals. Luo et al. propose a Eurasian origin for both placental and marsupial mammals, but Cifelli and Davis caution that this issue remains to be resolved.