The Spalacidae: evolutionary history, speciation and population biology.

I. R. Savic, E. Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The evolutionary history of Spalacidae is reviewed taxonomically, paleontologically and neontologically. We focused selectively on taxonomy, biogeography, paleontology and evolutionary origins, chromosomal evolution, population biology and the species concept in Spalacidae. We concluded that the taxonomy of Spalacidae needs a modern revision based on chromosome and molecular-genetic data, beside that of morphology, physiology and behavior. The subterranean Spalacidae originated probably from a muroid-cricetoid stock in Asia Minor or vicinity, in Upper Oligocene times and adaptively radiated underground in the Balkans, steppic Russia and Middle East, extending into North Africa. The major important evolutionary feature in peripatric or allopatric speciation and adaptive radiation was karyotypic evolution, primarily through Robertsonian changes. More than 30 karyotypes (2n = 38-62; NF = 72-124) earlier represented by 8 classical species, occur primarily allopatrically or parapatrically, with only marginal sympatry, across the Eastern Mediterranean range of the family. Most karyotypes represent biospecies adapted at multiple organizational levels to their different ecologies. A short overview is presented on population biology and life history parameters of the Spalacidae which result in K-selected, "equilibrium species". Speciation in action and adaptive radiation embracing molecular and organismal adptations to the subterranean unique ecotope and to four different climatic regimes, have been multidisciplinarily studied in the Israeli Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-153
Number of pages25
JournalProgress in Clinical and Biological Research
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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