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Victor Mason

Victor Mason

Advisor: Dr. Bill Murphy

Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences


Entered program in 2010

Research Project:

Colugos are nocturnal arboreal mammals that have poor dispersal capabilities outside of forested areas, have the largest patagium (gliding membrane) of any mammal, and are widely distributed across the Southeast Asian mainland and archipelago. They represent their own order, Dermoptera, and under current taxonomy two species are recognized, Galeopterus variegatus, the Sunda colugo, and Cynocephalus volans, the Philippine colugo. Preliminary studies indicated that Sunda colugos harbor multiple potential species with ~13% mtDNA sequence divergence across populations. Therefore we revisited colugo taxonomy and implemented two methods for obtaining orthologous sequences from museum specimens using Illumina sequencing: 1) capture-hybridization to enrich specific nuclear DNA segments, and 2) low-coverage genome sequencing (~0.3x) of raw genomic DNA extracts from museum specimens to recover complete mtDNA genomes from 86 Sundaic and Philippine colugos. Evidence for deeply divergent colugo populations/species endemic to distinct geographic regions is supported by maximum likelihood phylogenetic reconstructions. Divergence time estimation suggests complex biogeographic patterns from the Miocene through the Pleistocene. We recovered mtDNA genomes from 8 pangolins (genus Manis), and 19 mouse deer (genus Tragulus) and compare their phylogeographic patterns to colugos. Finally, we analyze targeted nuclear sequence capture of biparental loci(~80kb), Y-chromosome loci (~20kb), and genes predicted to underlie adaptations within colugos (~35kb). Comparing maternal, paternal, and biparentally inherited markers suggest future avenues to utilize museomic approaches to explore colugo specific adaptive biology, and highlight complex biogeographic patterns present within the SE Asian archipelago.

Broader Impacts of Research Project:

Providing a high resolution map of phylogenetic diversity within colugos will help define true species boundaries and increase conservation efforts to protect previously unrecognized species groups. In addition, we are in close collaboration with the National Museum of Natural History where our findings will be displayed to the many daily visitors of the museum.