Karyotype and genetic evolution in speciation of subterranean mole rats of the genus Spalax in Turkey

Eviatar Nevo, Maria Grazia Filippucci, Carlo Redi, Shimon Simson, Giora Heth, Avigdor Beiles

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Karyotype (2n) and allozyme diversity at 37 gene loci were determined in 69 subterranean mole rats in Turkey belonging to the two superspecies: the ancestor Spalax leucodon (n = 55; 20 populations) and the descendant S. ehrenbergi (n = 14: four populations. We identified remarkable variation of diploid chromosome numbers in the S. leucodon superspecies: 2n = 38, 40, 50, 54, 60 and 62; and in the S. ehrenbergi superspecies: 2n = 52, 56 and 58. Genetic diversity indices were low on average in both S. leucodon and S. ehrenbergi superspecies: Allele diversity, A = 1.081 and 1.074; polymorphism, P-50 0 = 0.077 and 0.068; heterozygosity, H = 0.038 and 0.027; and gene diversity, H = 0.038 and 0.034, respectively. H ranged from 0 in mesic or semimesic regions to 0.088 in arid Anatolia. We consider the populations with different diploid chromosome numbers, 2n, as good biological species. Karyotypic diversity may mark extensive ecological speciation. Nee's genetic distances, D average 0.174, range 0.002 0.422) and ecogeographical criteria suggest that almost each population may represent a different biological species, but critical future testing is necessary to support this claim. Karyotypes and allozymes are nonrandomly distributed across Turkey, displaying remarkable correlations with climatic and biotic factors. Both 2n and H are significantly correlated with aridity stress (2n/rainfall. r = -0.74; P < 0.001), and in our region also with climatic unpredictability. These results support the niche-width genetic variation hypothesis in space and time. Climatic selection in Turkey appears to be a major architect of karyotype and genetic (allozyme) diversity and divergence in mole rat evolution, in both speciation and adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-229
Number of pages27
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1995

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
\Ve acknowlcdqc with thanks the financial support of the Israel Discount Bank Chair of E~~~lutionary Biolqq , and the Ancell-Tcirhcr Rcscarch Foundation for Genctics and RIolccular E\volution cstablishcd by Florcncc and Theodore Baumrittcr of New York.


  • Spalax ehrenbergi
  • Spalax leucodon
  • adaptation
  • allozymes
  • chromosomal evolution
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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