Mammalian microevolution in action: Adaptive edaphic genomic divergence in blind subterranean mole-rats

Andrei Polyakov, Alex Beharav, Aaron Avivi, Eviatar Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genomic diversity of anonymous regions across the genome, most probably including coding and non-coding amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), was examined in 20 individuals of the blind mole-rat, Spalax galili, one of four allospecies of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies of blind subterranean mole-rats in Israel. We compared 10 individuals from two nearby populations in Upper Galilee, separated by only a few dozen to hundreds of metres and living in two sharply contrasting ecologies: white chalk and rendzina soil with Sarcopterium spinosum and Mojorana syriaca versus black volcanic basalt soil with Carlina hispanica-Psorelea bitominosa and Alhagi graecorum plant formations. The microsite tested ranged in an area of less than 10 000 m 2. Out of 729 AFLP loci, 433 (59.4%) were polymorphic, with 211 soil unique alleles. Genetic polymorphism was significantly higher on the ecologically more xeric and stressful chalky rendzina soil than on the neighbouring mesic basalt soil. This is a remarkable pattern for a mammal that can disperse each generation between tens to hundreds of metres. These results cannot be explained by migration (which causes homogenization) or by chance (which will exclude sharp genomic soil divergence). Natural selection is the only evolutionary adaptive force that can cause genetic divergence across the genome matching the sharp microscale ecological contrast.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S156-S159
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue numberSUPPL. 4
StatePublished - 7 May 2004


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Genome
  • Microscale ecology
  • Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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