Publication details

Evolutionary history and intraspecific variation of the Libyan Jird, Meriones libycus, based on genetic and morphometric data



Year of publication 2019
Type Conference abstract
Description The Libyan Jird (Meriones libycus Lichtenstein, 1823; Rodentia: Gerbillinae) is one of the most widely distributed species among rodents which is distributed from Morocco to China. It occupies desert and semi-desert habitats, generally in areas with stabilized dunes. Fifteen subspecies were described, based on skull features or coat colors, but the descriptions were often based on very few specimens. This study aims to describe M. libycus intraspecific diversity, correspondence of genetic lineages to the morphology- and geography-based subspecies and to discuss its phylogeographic history. We used an integrative taxonomy approach combining molecular (Cytb and Cox1) and geometric morphometric data. Based on the genetic and morphometric data, three allopatric lineages were identified: Western lineage in North Africa corresponding to M. l. libycus, Central lineage in Saudi Arabia and the Levant corresponding to M. l. syrius, and Eastern lineage (lineage erythrourus) from Iran to China including all other subspecies. All divergence events within M. libycus occurred during the Pleistocene, being estimated to happen after 1.533 Ma. Quaternary climate fluctuations in the Sinai Peninsula explain the differentiation between M. l. libycus and M. l. syrius. The differentiation of M. l. syrius with respect to the erythrourus lineage is linked to the climatic fluctuations and tectonic activity of the Zagros Mountains and/or the Mesopotamia Plain of Iraq during the Pleistocene.
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