Karyotype and genetic evolution in speciation of subterranean mole rats of the genus Spalax in Turkey

Eviatar Nevo, Maria Grazia Filippucci, Carlo Redi, Shimon Simson, Giora Heth, Avigdor Beiles

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Karyotype (2n) and allozyme diversity at 37 gene loci were determined in 69 subterranean mole rats in Turkey belonging to the two superspecies: the ancestor Spalax leucodon (n = 55; 20 populations) and the descendant S. ehrenbergi (n = 14: four populations. We identified remarkable variation of diploid chromosome numbers in the S. leucodon superspecies: 2n = 38, 40, 50, 54, 60 and 62; and in the S. ehrenbergi superspecies: 2n = 52, 56 and 58. Genetic diversity indices were low on average in both S. leucodon and S. ehrenbergi superspecies: Allele diversity, A = 1.081 and 1.074; polymorphism, P-50 0 = 0.077 and 0.068; heterozygosity, H = 0.038 and 0.027; and gene diversity, H = 0.038 and 0.034, respectively. H ranged from 0 in mesic or semimesic regions to 0.088 in arid Anatolia. We consider the populations with different diploid chromosome numbers, 2n, as good biological species. Karyotypic diversity may mark extensive ecological speciation. Nee's genetic distances, D average 0.174, range 0.002 0.422) and ecogeographical criteria suggest that almost each population may represent a different biological species, but critical future testing is necessary to support this claim. Karyotypes and allozymes are nonrandomly distributed across Turkey, displaying remarkable correlations with climatic and biotic factors. Both 2n and H are significantly correlated with aridity stress (2n/rainfall. r = -0.74; P <0.001), and in our region also with climatic unpredictability. These results support the niche-width genetic variation hypothesis in space and time. Climatic selection in Turkey appears to be a major architect of karyotype and genetic (allozyme) diversity and divergence in mole rat evolution, in both speciation and adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-229
Number of pages27
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • adaptation
  • allozymes
  • chromosomal evolution
  • Spalax ehrenbergi
  • Spalax leucodon
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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