A1 Journal article (refereed)
Evolutionary history of two cryptic species of northern African jerboas (2020)

Moutinho, A. F., Serén, N., Paupério, J., Silva, T. L., Martínez-Freiría, F., Sotelo, G., Faria, R., Mappes, T., Alves, P. C., Brito, J. C., & Boratyński, Z. (2020). Evolutionary history of two cryptic species of northern African jerboas. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 20, Article 26. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-020-1592-z

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsMoutinho, Ana Filipa; Serén, Nina; Paupério, Joana; Silva, Teresa Luísa; Martínez-Freiría, Fernando; Sotelo, Graciela; Faria, Rui; Mappes, Tapio; Alves, Paulo Célio; Brito, José Carlos; et al.

Journal or seriesBMC Evolutionary Biology


Publication year2020


Article number26

PublisherBioMed Central

Publication countryUnited Kingdom

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/67852


Climatic variation and geologic change both play significant roles in shaping species distributions, thus affecting their evolutionary history. In Sahara-Sahel, climatic oscillations shifted the desert extent during the Pliocene-Pleistocene interval, triggering the diversification of several species. Here, we investigated how these biogeographical and ecological events have shaped patterns of genetic diversity and divergence in African Jerboas, desert specialist rodents. We focused on two sister and cryptic species, Jaculus jaculus and J. hirtipes, where we (1) evaluated their genetic differentiation, (2) reconstructed their evolutionary and demographic history; (3) tested the level of gene flow between them, and (4) assessed their ecological niche divergence.

The analyses based on 231 individuals sampled throughout North Africa, 8 sequence fragments (one mitochondrial and seven single copy nuclear DNA, including two candidate genes for fur coloration: MC1R and Agouti), 6 microsatellite markers and ecological modelling revealed: (1) two distinct genetic lineages with overlapping distributions, in agreement with their classification as different species, J. jaculus and J. hirtipes, with (2) low levels of gene flow and strong species divergence, (3) high haplotypic diversity without evident geographic structure within species, and (4) a low level of large-scale ecological divergence between the two taxa, suggesting species micro-habitat specialization.

Overall, our results suggest a speciation event that occurred during the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition. The contemporary distribution of genetic variation suggests ongoing population expansions. Despite the largely overlapping distributions at a macrogeographic scale, our genetic results suggest that the two species remain reproductively isolated, as only negligible levels of gene flow were observed. The overlapping ecological preferences at a macro-geographic scale and the ecological divergence at the micro-habitat scale suggest that local adaptation may have played a crucial role in the speciation process of these species.

Keywordsphylogeneticsspeciationenvironmental changesdesertsadaptation (change)rodents

Free keywordsAfrican jerboas; cryptic diversity; demographic history; deserts; Jaculus; local adaptation; phylogenetics; reproductive isolation; Sahara-Sahel; speciation

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Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2020

JUFO rating2

Last updated on 2024-22-04 at 23:24