Stress, adaptation, and speciation in the evolution of the blind mole rat, Spalax, in Israel

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Abstract

Environmental stress played a major role in the evolution of the blind mole rat superspecies Spalax ehrenbergi, affecting its adaptive evolution and ecological speciation underground. Spalax is safeguarded all of its life underground from aboveground climatic fluctuations and predators. However, it encounters multiple stresses in its underground burrows including darkness, energetics, hypoxia, hypercapnia, food scarcity, and pathogenicity. Consequently, it evolved adaptive genomic, proteomic, and phenomic complexes to cope with those stresses. Here I describe some of these adaptive complexes, and their theoretical and applied perspectives. Spalax mosaic molecular and organismal evolution involves reductions or regressions coupled with expansions or progressions caused by evolutionary tinkering and natural genetic engineering. Speciation of Spalax in Israel occurred in the Pleistocene, during the last 2.00-2.35. Mya, generating four species associated intimately with four climatic regimes with increasing aridity stress southwards and eastwards representing an ecological speciational adaptive trend: (Spalax golani, 2. n=54 → S. galili, 2. n=52 → S. carmeli, 2. n=58 → S. judaei, 2. n=60). Darwinian ecological speciation occurred gradually with relatively little genetic change by Robertsonian chromosomal and genic mutations. Spalax genome sequencing has just been completed. It involves multiple adaptive complexes to life underground and is an evolutionary model to a few hundred underground mammals. It involves great promise in the future for medicine, space flight, and deep-sea diving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-525
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Volume66
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2013

Keywords

  • Adaptive complex
  • Blind mole-rat
  • Environmental stress
  • Genome sequencing
  • Spalax
  • Speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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