Publication details

Diversity, distribution, and evolutionary history of the most studied African rodents, multimammate mice of the genus Mastomys: An overview after a quarter of century of using DNA sequencing



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Africa; multimammate mice; phylogeography; rodents; savannah
Description Despite the importance of rodents as agricultural pests and reservoirs of zoonoses, the taxonomy and evolutionary history of many groups is still not sufficiently understood. The genus Mastomys (multimammate mice or rats) comprises abundant and intensively studied rodents, widespread across sub-Saharan Africa. Here, we used an extensive dataset of mitochondrial DNA markers comprising of nearly 2700 individual sequences from 30 African countries to update the information about the geographical distribution of their genetic diversity. In the next step, we sequenced complete mitogenomes, six nuclear markers, and produced anchored phylogenomic data (355 loci) and, for the first time, sufficiently resolved phylogenetic relationships among all extant Mastomys species and reconstructed their evolutionary history. The results suggest eight species of Mastomys occupying various non-forested environments. Some species are very widespread (Mastomys natalensis, Mastomys kollmannspergeri, and Mastomys erythroleucus; for the latter we provide first records from Tanzania, thus significantly extending its distribution), while others have their distribution restricted to particular geographical areas (Mastomys coucha in South African region, Mastomys awashensis in Ethiopia, and Mastomys angolensis in Angola and southern DRC) or to particular habitat, that is, wetlands in western (Mastomys huberti) or southwestern (Mastomys shortridgei) Africa. The first split separating M. angolensis (with five pairs of mammae only) from remaining multimammate taxa occurred in mid-Pliocene, but the most intensive radiation occurred in mid-Pleistocene and was likely driven by the intensification of climate oscillations. The resolved phylogeny of Mastomys will facilitate their further use as model taxa, for example, in understanding proximate mechanisms of evolution of the multimammate phenotype.

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