Allozyme differentiation and systematics of the endemic subterranean mole rats of South Africa

E. Nevo, R. Ben-Shlomo, A. Beiles, J. U.M. Jarvis, G. C. Hickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have analyzed allozyme differentiation, encoded by 20 putative gene loci, of three genera and four currently accepted species of Southern African mole rats, Bathyergidae (Cryptomys hottentotus hottentotus, C. hottentotus natalensis, C. hottentotus damarensis, Georychus capensis, Bathyergus suillus and B. janetta). Two major results are indicated: (a) genetically the family reflects distinct homozygosity (H=0.019, range 0.00-0.05) as is typical for underground fossorial mammals and (b) remarkable large genetic distances exist between the six taxa analyzed (D= 1.865, range 0.547-2.917). These results suggest that homoselection operates in the underground ecotope in accordance with the niche width variation hypothesis, and that bathyergid systematics needs urgent revision, particularly the genus Cryptomys. The three subspecies of Cryptomys appear to be at least three different species, possibly even falling into two genera. The adaptive radiation of bathyergids started at least in Miocene times, but probably began earlier in the Oligocene as indicated by the fossil record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-502
Number of pages14
JournalBiochemical Systematics and Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Jul 1987

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements--We thank Shimeon Simson for laboratory assitance, and Stuart Grant for criticallyc ommenting on the manuscript. E. Nero wishes to extend his deep gratitude to the internationalD ivisiono f the CSIR, South Africa, and the Visiting Scholars Fund, Universityo f Cape Town, for making his trip in South Africa for studying Bathyergidaep ossible.W e are also indebted to the Israel Discount Chair of Evolutionary Biology and to the AncelI-Teicher Research Foundation for Genetics and Molecular Evolution, established by Florence and Theodore Baumritter,f or financial support.


  • Allozyme differentiation
  • evolutionary tree
  • genetic distance
  • mole rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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