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Molecular phylogeny of caprines (Bovidae, Antilopinae): the question of their origin and diversification during the Miocene

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Caprines include all bovids related to sheep and goat. The composition of the group is controversial and inter-generic relationships have been widely debated. Here, we analysed 2469 characters draw from three distinct molecular markers, i.e. two mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b and 12S rRNA) and one nuclear fragment (exon 4 of the -casein gene). The taxonomic sampling includes all genera putatively described as caprines, as well as several other bovid genera in order to elucidate the position of caprines within the family Bovidae, and to determine the exact composition of the group. Phylogenetic analyses confirm firstly that Pseudoryx and Saiga do not belong to caprines, and secondly, that all tribes classically defined in the literature are not monophyletic, supporting the inclusion of all caprine species into a unique enlarged tribe Caprini sensu lato. Our results are in contradiction with previous investigations suggesting a sister-group relationship between Ovis (sheep and mouflons) and Budorcas (takins). By using a molecular calibration point at 18.5 Mya for the first appearance of bovids, we estimated divergence times with our molecular data. We also performed biogeographic inferences to better understand the origin and diversification of caprines during the Neogene. Our analyses suggest that caprines shared a common ancestor with Alcelaphini and Hippotragini in the middle-late Miocene (13.37 ± 0.70 Mya). Our results also indicate that the extant generic diversity of caprines resulted from a rapid adaptive radiation during the late Miocene, at 10.96 ± 0.73 Mya. We propose that this adaptive radiation resulted from the acquisition of reduced metacarpals, a key innovation which occurred during the late Miocene as a consequence of insularity isolation in the mountainous mega-archipelago between Mediterranean and Paratethys Seas.
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Keywords: Bovidae; Caprini sensu lato; Miocene; Molecular phylogeny; adaptive radiation; biogeography

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 2005

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