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Phylogeographic structure and regional history of Lemniscomys striatus (Rodentia: Muridae) in tropical Africa

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Abstract Aim 

This study aims to elucidate the phylogeography of the murid rodent Lemniscomys striatus and to evaluate the relative roles of ecological change, habitat patchiness, rivers and geological barriers in structuring patterns of diversity. Location 

Sub-Saharan Africa. Methods 

The extent of phylogeographic patterns and molecular genetic diversity (cytochrome b gene) were addressed in a survey of 128 individuals of L. striatus from 42 localities. Using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, Bayesian, network and genetic structure analyses, we inferred intraspecific relationships and tested hypotheses for historical patterns of gene flow within L. striatus. Results 

Our results identified four major geographical clades within L. striatus: a West African clade, a Benin-Nigeria clade, a Central African clade, and an East African clade. Several subclades were identified within these four major clades. Restricted gene flow with isolation by distance was recorded, which is congruent with the low dispersal ability of such a small murid rodent. No clear signal of population expansion was detected within clades or subclades. Main conclusions 

The western rift system and the Volta and Niger rivers may have acted as long-term extrinsic barriers to gene flow, resulting in the emergence of the four main clades of L. striatus. The observed pattern of mitochondrial variation observed within each clade probably results from late Pleistocene climatic and vegetation changes: during adverse conditions (forest expansion), L. striatus may have survived only in refugia, and then experienced range expansion under favourable conditions (savanna expansion).
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Keywords: Africa; Lemniscomys; Niger River; Pleistocene; Volta River; cytochrome b; historical demography; phylogenetic analyses; phylogeography; rodent

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: UMR CNRS 6553 Ecobio, Université de Rennes 1, Station Biologique, Paimpont, France 2: Vertebrate Department, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium 3: Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département de Systématique et Evolution, UMR 5202, Laboratoire Mammifères et Oiseaux, Paris, France 4: UMR CNRS/UPS 5174, Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse Cedex 9, France 5: Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun, Nigeria 6: Laboratoire LEGERA, Faculté des Sciences, Université de Kisangani, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo

Publication date: 2008-11-01

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