The concept of climate variability facilitating adaptive radiation supported by the "Court Jester" hypothesis is disputed by the "Red Queen" one, but the prevalence of one or the other might be scale-dependent. We report on a detailed, comprehensive phylo-geographic study on the ~4 kb mtDNA sequence in underground blind mole rats of the family Spalacidae (or subfamily Spalacinae) from the East Mediterranean steppes. Our study aimed at testing the presence of periodicities in branching patterns on a constructed phylogenetic tree and at searching for congruence between branching events, tectonic history and paleoclimates. In contrast to the strong support for the majority of the branching events on the tree, the absence of support in a few instances indicates that network-like evolution could exist in spalacids. In our tree, robust support was given, in concordance with paleontological data, for the separation of spalacids from muroid rodents during the first half of the Miocene when open, grass-dominated habitats were established. Marine barriers formed between Anatolia and the Balkans could have facilitated the separation of the lineage "Spalax" from the lineage "Nannospalax" and of the clade "leucodon" from the clade "xanthodon". The separation of the clade "ehrenbergi" occurred during the late stages of the tectonically induced uplift of the Anatolian high plateaus and mountains, whereas the separation of the clade "vasvarii" took place when the rapidly uplifting Taurus mountain range prevented the Mediterranean rainfalls from reaching the Central Anatolian Plateau. The separation of Spalax antiquus and S. graecus occurred when the southeastern Carpathians were uplifted. Despite the role played by tectonic events, branching events that show periodicity corresponding to 400-kyr and 100-kyr eccentricity bands illuminate the important role of orbital fluctuations on adaptive radiation in spalacids. At the given scale, our results supports the "Court Jester" hypothesis over the "Red Queen" one.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)