Rapid chromosomal evolution in the mesic four-striped grass rat **Rhabdomys dilectus** (Rodentia, Muridae) revealed by mtDNA phylogeographic analysis
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Journal of zoological systematics and evolutionary research. - Frankfurt
, p. 165-172
University of Antwerp
The mesic four-striped grass rat Rhabdomys dilectus De Winton, 1897 is distributed in mesic regions of southern and eastern Africa. We carried out a molecular and chromosomal study of the northernmost populations of the species to provide insight into the subspecific boundaries identified within the species and to describe its genetic structure in Eastern Africa. Maximum likelihood, maximum parsimony and neighbour-joining methods were used to construct phylogenetic relationships among all the haplotypes belonging to the large part of the species range. Times of divergences were estimated assuming a relaxed molecular clock with two calibration points. We identified three well-supported clades within R. dilectus. One basal clade corresponding to Rhabdomys d. chakae (2n = 48) is found in South Africa. Two additional sister clades corresponding to R. d. dilectus (2n = 48 and 2n = 46) are allopatrically distributed in southern and northern parts of the species range. Genetic divergence among the three clades is relatively high (ranges 4.25.7%). A very divergent new karyotype 2n = 38, FNa = 60 was found in two high-altitude populations on Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro. The karyotype differences consist in three Robertsonian fusions and one whole-arm reciprocal translocation. Interestingly, the mtDNA phylogeny does not match with the diploid numbers. In fact, the 2n = 38 specimens form a monophyletic group within a clade that includes specimens with the 2n = 46 karyotype that appears as paraphyletic. We estimated the new karyotype originated in peripatric condition during the last phases of the Pleistocene. This study confirms the importance of chromosomal analysis in detecting taxonomic units and cryptic diversity in rodents.