Population genetics of the striped-mouse, Rhabdomys Pumilio (Sparrman, 1784)
The striped-mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio, is widely distributed throughout southern Africa within a variety of habitats and rainfall regimes. It is found at sea level in the Eastern and Western Cape regions and at altitudes above 2700 m in the Drakensberg mountains. The attraction of R.pumilio to cultivated land and crops has resulted in extensive damage to plants and cultivated crops. A study of the genetic variation between populations of R.pumilio from different regions of southern Africa was undertaken by protein electrophoresis and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR-RAPD). A cytogenetic study was also undertaken. The mean heterozygosity (H=0.074) for R.pumilio was more than twice that estimated for mammals (H=0.036) while the mean percent polymorphism (P=16.1%) was only slightly higher than the mean percent polymorphism obtained for mammals (P=14.7%). The highest heterozygosities were recorded in the Potchefstroom (H=0 .145) and Zimbabwe (H=0 .118) samples and the lowest mean heterozygosity was recorded in the peninsular Western Cape (H=0. 032). A mean Fst value of 0.459 was obtained, suggesting a high degree of genetic differentiation between the samples of R.pumilio but the negative Fis (-0.01) value emphasized that R.pumilio retained an outbreeding population structure. The similarity coefficient between the samples of R.pumilio using PCR-RAPD's ranged between 0.471 and 0.853 and substantiated the argument for genetic divergence between the samples of R.pumilio. An isolation by distance model for the population genetic structure of R.pumilio was supported by the allozymes (r=0.58, p<0.00l) and PCR-RAPD's (0.75, p<0.00l). Temperature and rainfall also had an influence on the allelic frequency distribution of certain loci of R.pumilio. Rogers (1972) genetic similarity varied between 0.796 and 0.988 while the values for Nei's (1978) unbiased genetic distance varied between 0.000 and 0.189 for the different samples of R.pumilio. Subgrouping of the KwaZulu-Natal samples, the peninsular Western Cape and Eastern Cape samples of R.pumilio was evident with the allozymes. With the PCR-RAPD' s the Zimbabwe sample showed the least similarity to the other samples with a KwaZulu-Natal/Potchefstroom subgroup separating from the less well defined Eastern Cape and Western Cape subgroup. Cytogenetic studies of specimens of R.pumilio from some of the localities in southern Africa revealed a chromosomal number of 2n=48 , while the Potchefstroom and Zimbabwe specimens displayed a chromosomal number of 2n=46. Homology in G-and C-banding was recorded. The allozymes, PCR-RAPD's and chromosomal studies suggested subspecies status for the Zimbabwe population of R.pumilio. The Potchefstroom sample displayed a greater genetic similarity to the remaining South African samples of R.pumilio than the Zimbabwe samples and therefore could not be considered for subspecies status. Although the South African samples of R.pumilio displayed a certain degree of genetic divergence, it was insufficient to warrant subspecies status although evolution in this direction was suggested.