Unraveling phylogenetic relationships and species boundaries in the arid adapted Gerbillus rodents (Muridae: Gerbillinae) by RAD-seq data
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Gerbillus is one of the most speciose genera among rodents, with ca. 51 recognized species. Previous attempts to reconstruct the evolutionary history of Gerbillus mainly relied on the mitochondrial cyt-b marker as a source of phylogenetic information. In this study, we utilize RAD-seq genomic data from 37 specimens representing 11 species to reconstruct the phylogenetic tree for Gerbillus, applying concatenation and coalescence methods. We identified four highly supported clades corresponding to the traditionally recognized subgenera: Dipodillus, Gerbillus, Hendecapleura and Monodia. Only two uncertain branches were detected in the resulting trees, with one leading to diversification of the main lineages in the genus, recognized by quartet sampling analysis as uncertain due to possible introgression. We also examined species boundaries for four pairs of sister taxa, including potentially new species from Morocco, using SNAPP. The results strongly supported a speciation model in which all taxa are treated as separate species. The dating analyses confirmed the Plio-Pleistocene diversification of the genus, with the uncertain branch coinciding with the beginning of aridification of the Sahara at the the Plio-Pleistocene boundary. This study aligns well with the earlier analyses based on the cyt-b marker, reaffirming its suitability as an adequate marker for estimating genetic diversity in Gerbillus.
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National Geographic Society