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The ecology and evolution of the Monito del monte, a relict species from the southern South America temperate forests
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  • Francisco Fonturbel,
  • Marcela Franco,
  • Francisco Bozinovic,
  • Julian Quintero-Galvis,
  • Carlos Mejias,
  • Guillermo Amico,
  • María Soledad Vasquez,
  • Pablo Sabat,
  • Juan Carlos Sanchez-Hernández,
  • David Watson,
  • Pablo Saenz-Agudelo,
  • Roberto Nespolo
Francisco Fonturbel
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
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Marcela Franco
Universidad de Ibagué
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Francisco Bozinovic
universidad catolica de chile
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Julian Quintero-Galvis
Universidad Austral de Chile
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Carlos Mejias
El Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas
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Guillermo Amico
Universidad Nacional del Comahue
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María Soledad Vasquez
Universidad Nacional del Comahue
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Pablo Sabat
Universidad de Chile
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Juan Carlos Sanchez-Hernández
Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha
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David Watson
Charles Sturt University
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Pablo Saenz-Agudelo
El Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas
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Roberto Nespolo
Universidad Austral de Chile
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Abstract

The arboreal marsupial Monito del Monte (genus Dromiciops, with two recognized species) is a paradigmatic mammal. It is the sole living representative of the order Microbiotheria, the ancestor lineage of Australian marsupials. Also, this marsupial is the unique frugivorous mammal in the temperate rainforest, being the main seed disperser of several endemic plants of this ecosystem, thus acting as keystone species. Dromiciops is also one of the few hibernating mammals in South America, spending half of the year in a physiological dormancy where metabolism is reduced to 10% of normal levels. This capacity to reduce energy expenditure in winter contrasts with the enormous energy turnover rate they experience in spring and summer. The unique life-history strategies of this living Microbiotheria, characterized by an alternation of life in the slow and fast lanes, putatively represent ancestral traits that permitted these cold-adapted mammals to survive in this environment. Here we describe the ecological role of this emblematic marsupial, summarizing the ecophysiology of hibernation and sociality, actualized phylogeographic relationships, reproductive cycle, trophic relationships, mutualisms, conservation and threats. This marsupial shows high densities, despite presenting slow reproductive rates, a paradox that is explained by the unique characteristics of its three-dimensional habitat. We finally suggest immediate actions to protect these locally abundant but globally threatened species.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

23 Nov 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
24 Nov 2021Assigned to Editor
24 Nov 2021Submission Checks Completed
25 Nov 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned