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On the origin and systematics of the northern African wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) populations: a comparative study of mtDNA restriction patterns

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Conflicting hypotheses have been formulated regarding the origin of wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) populations in northern Africa. In this study, the mtDNA restriction patterns of mice (n = 28) collected in Tunisia and Morocco are compared with those of representatives from southern Europe (n = 102). The neighbour-joining tree confirms the existence of the three lineages previously found in the Mediterranean area: western, Tyrrhenian–Balkan, and Sicilian. The western group is isolated from the two others, with bootstrap values of 89 and 95%. Northern African patterns are included in the western group. Their variability is low, the same pattern being shared by five Tunisian and all Moroccan animals (n = 18), caught either in the north of the country (Cap Spartel) or in the south (Marrakech). This implies that northern African wood mouse populations have a southwestern European origin and that their presence in the region is probably recent, which corresponds to both paleontological data and the hypothesis of anthropogenic introduction.

Des hypothèses contradictoires ont été formulées pour expliquer l'origine des populations nord-africaines de Mulots sylvestres (Apodemus sylvaticus). Cette note compare les patrons de restriction de l'ADN mitochondrial de 28 animaux capturés en Tunisie et au Maroc avec ceux de 102 individus du sud de l'Europe. L'arbre phylogénétique construit selon la méthode « neighbor joining » confirme l'existence des trois groupes trouvés précédemment dans le bassin méditerranéen : un groupe occidental, un groupe tyrrhéno–balkanique et un groupe sicilien. La séparation des groupes tyrrhéno–balkanique et sicilien de la lignée occidentale est fortement soutenue par des valeurs de bootstrap de 89 et 95 %, respectivement. Les patrons nord-africains se rattachent au groupe occidental. Leur variabilité est très faible, le même patron étant partagé par cinq animaux tunisiens et par tous les mulots marocains (n = 18), qu'ils proviennent du nord (Cap Spartel) ou du sud (Marrakech) du pays. Ces observations impliquent que les mulots d'Afrique du Nord prennent leur origine en Europe du sud-ouest et que leur présence en Afrique est probablement récente, ce qui correspond aux données paléontologiques ainsi qu'à l'hypothèse d'une introduction d'origine anthropique.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-08-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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