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Heredity (Edinb). 2005 Jan;94(1):52-63.

So close and so different: comparative phylogeography of two small mammal species, the yellow-necked fieldmouse (Apodemus flavicollis) and the woodmouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) in the Western Palearctic region.

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  • 1Unité de Recherches Zoogéographiques, Institut de Zoologie, Quai Van Beneden, 22, 4020 Liège, Belgium. Johan.Michaux@ulg.ac.be


In Europe, concordant geographical distribution among genetic lineages within different species is rare, which suggests distinct reactions to Quaternary ice ages. This study aims to determine whether such a discrepancy also affects a pair of sympatric species, which are morphologically and taxonomically closely related but which have slight differences in their ecological habits. The phylogeographic structures of two European rodents, the Yellow-necked fieldmouse (A. flavicollis) and the woodmouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) were, therefore, compared on the basis of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b (mtDNA cyt b) sequences (965 base pairs) from 196 specimens collected from 59 European localities spread throughout the species distributions. The results indicate that the two species survived in different ways through the Quaternary glaciations. A. sylvaticus survived in the Iberian Peninsula from where it recolonized almost all Europe at the end of the last glaciation. Conversely, the refuge from which A. flavicollis recolonized Europe, including northern Spain, during the Holocene corresponds to the Italo-Balkan area, where A. sylvaticus suffered a serious genetic bottleneck. This study confirms that even closely related species may have highly different phylogeographic histories and shows the importance of ecological plasticity of the species for their survival through climate change. Finally, it suggests that phylogeographic distinctiveness may be a general feature of European species.

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