We have completely sequenced the mtDNA cytochrome b gene of ground squirrels from the zone of overlapping ranges of Spermophilus major and S. erythrogenys in the Tobol-Ishim interfluve, which is a putative hybridization zone of these species. The results of the sequencing showed extensive introgression of mtDNA genes of the short-tailed ground squirrel S. e. brevicauda, whose haplotype had fully replaced the S. major haplotype. All of the ground squirrels from the Tobol-Ishim interfluve had a variant of the S. e. brevicauda mtDNA haplotype that was specific for this zone. On average, 119 substitutions (10.44%) were found between S. major from Ul'yanovsk oblast and S. e. brevicauda from the northern Kazakhstan, the mean genetic distance (D) between them being 0.115, which conforms to the corresponding parameters for the S. e. brevicauda-S. pygmaeus pair (122 substitutions, D = 0.118). Insignificant differences (seven substitutions, D = 0.043) were found between the S. major and S. pygmaeus haplotypes, which suggest that these species have similar mitochondrial haplotypes. Five to ten nucleotide substitutions (0.44–0.88%) were detected between the animals from the Tobol-Ishim interfluve and S. e. brevicauda. The mtDNA haplotype divergence D within the genus Spermophilus (ten species) for all codon positions ranged from 0.035 to 0.158. Phylogenetic reconstructions (MP, ML, and NJ trees) showed two well-differentiated clusters with high bootstrap support. However, there was different branching topology within the cluster and their species composition varied. The maximum likelihood tree, ML, differentiating the species into two subgenera, Citellus and Colobotis, most reliably reflected taxonomic relationships of the species from the genus Spermophilus, inferred from morphological and genetic biochemical data. The morphologically pure S. major (subgenus Colobotis) animals, used in the analysis, proved to carry the haplotype of another species, S. pygmaeus (subgenus Citellus). This poses a question on the existence of the specific haplotype of S. major, the reason of its replacement by haplotype of other species, and possible consequences of this phenomenon for survival of the species.
Russian Journal of Genetics – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 17, 2006
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