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A new cytochrome b phylogroup of the common vole (Microtus arvalis) endemic to the Balkans and its implications for the evolutionary history of the species

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The phylogeographic architecture of the common vole, Microtus arvalis, has been well-studied using mitochondrial DNA and used to test hypotheses relating to glacial refugia. The distribution of the five described cytochrome b (cyt b) lineages in Europe west of Russia has been interpreted as a consequence of postglacial expansion from both southern and central European refugia. A recently proposed competing model suggests that the ‘cradle’ of the M. arvalis lineages is in western central Europe from where they dispersed in different directions after the Last Glacial Maximum. In the present study, we report a new cyt b lineage of the common vole from the Balkans that is not closely related to any other lineage and whose presence might help resolve these issues of glacial refugia. The Balkan phylogroup occurs along the southern distributional border of M. arvalis in central and eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and eastern Serbia. Further north and west in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, common voles belong to the previously-described Eastern lineage, whereas both lineages are sympatric in one site in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Balkan phylogroup most reasonably occupied a glacial refugium already known for various Balkan endemic species, in contrast to the recently proposed model. South-east Europe is an absolutely crucial area for understanding the postglacial colonization history of small mammals in Europe and the present study adds to the very few previous detailed phylogeographic studies of this region. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 100, 788–796.

Keywords: colonization history; demographic; glacial refugia; mitochondrial DNA; phylogeography

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of York, PO Box 373, York YO10 5YW, UK 2: University of Primorska, Science and Research Centre of Koper, Garibaldijeva 1, 6000 Koper, Slovenia

Publication date: 2010-08-01

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