Mitochondrial DNA variability between selected populations of Otomys irroratus (Muridae:Otomyinae)
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An interpopulation study was done on the rodent species Otamys irroratus (Muridae:Otomyinae) using restriction fragment length Polymorphisms to examine the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 30 vlei rats (Otamys irroratus) from three South African locations and 12 Angoni vlei rats (O.angoniensis) from two locations which were included as an outgroup. The three O.irroratus Populations originated from Karkloof and Kamberg in the Natal midlands and from Rietvlei in the Southern Transvaal. Mitochondrial DNA was extracted and purified by cesium-chloride/ethidium-bromide ultracentrifugation and digested with 19 class 11 restriction endonucleases. The fragments were end-labelled with 32P-dCTP, separated by electrophoresis on horizontal 1% agarose gels and the bands detected by autoradiography. The resultant individual-specific fragment patterns were analysed using the Restsite analysis program (v 1.1; Nei and Miller, 1990) to obtain a measure of the percent sequence divergences between and within the 3 POpulations of O.irroratus as well as between this species and the outgroup. The 19 endonucleases detected 19 distinct O.irroratus mtDNA maternal lineages and 3 O.angoniensis lineages. The O.irroratus lineages were clearly geographical ly structured and most closely reflected the Avise et al. (1987) category I (phylogenetic discontinuity with spatial separation). The only exception was a possible ancestral lineage represented by single individuals from Kamberg and Karkloof. Phylogenetic affinities between the most diverse lineages found at Kamberg and most Karkloof clones appear to be consistent with the finding of Pillay et al. (1993) and Contrafatto et al. (1992b) that Kamberg O.irroratus is an incipient sibling species of Karkloof O.irroratus. The mtDNA data indicates that the O.irroratus Populations at Karkloof and Kamberg last shared a common ancestor approximately 365 000 years ago. By contrast, O.angoniensis showed no evidence of geographic mtDNA structuring and is best described by the Avise et al. (1987) category Ill, which reflects phylogenetic continuity with spatial separation. These classifications must be regarded with caution given the limited distributional range of each species covered by this investigation. The interspecific mtDNA sequence divergence between O.irroratus and O.angoniensis of 11.57% substaniates morphological, karyotypic and allozymic evidence that these two sympatric species are also sibling species and they appear to have last shared a common ancestor between 1.2 and 2.4 million years ago.