Infraspecific systematics of the yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata.
Geographic variation was analysed in morphological (colour, morphometric) and genetic (electrophoretic, chromosomal) characters in the yellow mongoose cynictis penicillata, a diurnal, colonial, burrow-dwelling viverrid, endemic to and widespread throughout Southern Africa. The causal bases of observed geographic patterns were investigated, and a taxonomic revision of the species was undertaken. Three physical properties of pelage colour (hue, value and chroma) were measured independently using Munsell colour charts and a tristimulus colorimeter. Hue and chroma varied from yellowish (hue) and bleached (chroma) in the north to a brighter, (chroma) tawny-orange (hue) in the south. A zone of rapid colour change separated northern and southern groups. Specimens from the drier western areas were paler (in value) than specimens from more easterly localities. Colour patterns were interpreted in terms in the principle of metachromism. Environmental correlates of colour were analysed. Non-geographic (age, sex, individual) and geographic variation was analysed in 14 cranial and two external characters, using multivariate and univariate techniques. The species does not show secondary sexual dimorphism. Multivariate analyses resulted in the description of four parapatric subspecies, three of which were distinguished on the basis of skull size (which accounted for 93% of geographic variation). Subspecies were separated by continuous zones of craniometric differentiation (transition zones). Craniometric overlap (intergradation) occurred across transition zones. The geographic pattern of craniometric variation in C. penicillata could be explained by either an allopatric or a parapatric mode of speciation. A cladistic analysis of coded cranial characters was used to infer the historical pattern of range expansion in the species. The population genetical structure, based on electrophoretic analysis of 28 loci in eight populations of yellow mongooses, was characterised by the absence of genetic divergence between morphometrically-defined subspecies, a mean expected heterozygosity of 3.4%, low genetic distances between populations (0.000--0.105 for Nei's genetic distance), and a surprisingly high fixation index (FST) of 0.585. The basic karyotype of the yellow mongoose was invariant geographically (2n = 36, NF = 72), although a single, supernumerary microchromosome was detected in four out of the five populations sampled. G- and C-banded karyotypes are presented. Evolutionary relationships among eight Southern African viverrid species, including the yellow mongoose, were inferred from phenetic and cladistic analyses of allelic variation at 18 protein loci. These data suggested the separate evolution of social and solitary lineages of mongooses.