Molecular evolution of cytochrome b of subterranean mole rats, Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies, in Israel

Eviatar Nevo, Avigdor Beiles, Theresa Spradling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe the molecular evolution of cytochrome b of blind subterranean mole rats. We examined 12 individuals for nucleotide differences in the region of 402 base pairs of mitochondrial cytochrome b. Each individual represents a different population from the entire ecological and speciational range of the four chromosomal species in Israel (2n = 52, 54, 58, and 60) belonging to the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies. Our results indicate the following. (i) There are seven first-position transitional differences, compared to 34 variable third positions, with no observed second-position substitutions. (ii) A maximum of four amino acids differences occurs across the range. (iii) Within-species diversity increases southward. Only 1 autoapomorphic substitution characterizes either 2n = 52 or 2n = 54, but 6-11 substitutions characterize 2n = 58, and 9-13 substitutions characterize 2n = 60. (iv) Both parsimony and maximum-likelihood trees suggest two monophyletic groups: (a) 2n = 52 and 54, and (b) 2n = 58 and 60, as identified earlier by other protein and DNA markers. (v) Mitochondrial cytochrome b heterogeneity is significantly correlated with climatic factors (rainfall) and biotic factors (body size and allozymes). We hypothesize that two selective regimes direct cytochrome b evolution in the S. ehrenbergi superspecies: (i) purifying selection in the flooded, mesic, hypoxic northern range of 2n = 52 and 54 and (ii) diversifying selection in the climatically spatiotemporal, xeric, and variable southern range of 2n = 58 and 60. Thus, the molecular evolution of mitochondrial cytochrome b in S. ehrenbergi is explicable by opposite selective stresses across the range of S. ehrenbergi in Israel, associated with the ecological adaptive radiation of the complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999


  • Adaptation
  • Codon usage
  • DNA compositional bias
  • Mitochondrial cytochrome b
  • Molecular evolution
  • Speciation
  • Subterranean mammals
  • Transition-transversion ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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