Mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms in subterranean mole-rats of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel, and its peripheral isolates

E. Nevo, R. L. Honeycutt, H. Yonekawa, K. Nelson, N. Hanzawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patterns of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation were examined in 133 molerats constituting all four chromosomal species (2n = 52, 2n = 54, 2n = 58, and 2n = 60) of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel, as well as the peripheral isolates of 2n = 60. In the main range of the complex, a total of 28 mtDNA haplotypes were found in 64 mole-rats, with most haplotypes being unique to either a single chromosomal species or population. mtDNA divergence increased from low to high diploid number in a north-to-south direction in Israel. Overall levels of mtDNA diversity were unexpectedly the highest in the 2n = 60, the youngest species of the complex. The mtDNA haplotypes can be separated into two major groups, 2n = 52-54 and 2n = 58-60, and a phylogenetic analysis for each group revealed evidence of a few haplotypes not sorted by diploid number. The overall patterns of mtDNA divergence seen within and among the four chromosomal species are consistent with the parapatric mode of speciation as suggested from previous studies of allozyme and DNA hybridization. In a separate data set the patterns of mtDNA variation were examined across the main geographic range and across peripheral semi-isolates and isolates of the 2n = 60 chromosomal species. Fifteen haplotypes were found in 69 mole-rats. High levels of mtDNA diversity characterized the main range, semi-isolated, and even some desert isolated populations. The peripheral isolates contain much mtDNA diversity, including novel haplotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-604
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1993


  • Gene flow
  • Isolates
  • Mole-rats
  • Spalax ehrenbergi
  • Speciation
  • mtdna diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology


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