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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 1999 Jun;12(1):31-46.

Cytochrome b phylogeny of the family bovidae: resolution within the alcelaphini, antilopini, neotragini, and tragelaphini.

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Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa.


The family Bovidae is characterized by an incomplete fossil record for the period during which most bovid subfamilies emerged. This, coupled to extensive morphological convergence among species, has given rise to inconsistencies in taxonomic treatments, especially at the tribal and subfamilial levels. In an attempt to clarify some of these issues we analyzed the complete mtDNA cytochrome b gene (1140 bp) from 38 species/subspecies representing at least nine tribes and six subfamilies. Specific emphasis was placed on the evolution of the Alcelaphini (hartebeest and wildebeest), the Tragelaphini (kudu, eland, and close allies), the Antilopini (gazelles), and the Neotragini (dwarf antelope). Saturation plots for the codon positions revealed differences between bovid tribes and this allowed for the exclusion of transitional substitutions that were characterized by multiple hits. There was no significant rate heterogeneity between taxa. By calibrating genetic distance against the fossil record, a transversion-based sequence divergence of 0.22% (+/-0.015%) per million years is proposed for cytochrome b clock calibrations in the Bovidae. All evidence suggests that the Alcelaphini form a monophyletic group; there was no support for the recognition of the Lichtenstein's hartebeest in a separate genus (Sigmoceros), and the acceptance of the previously suggested Alcelaphus is recommended for this species. High bootstrap support was found for a sister taxon relationship between Alcelaphus and Damaliscus, a finding which is in good agreement with allozyme and morphological studies. In the case of the Tragelaphini, the molecular data suggest the inclusion of Taurotragus in the genus Tragelaphus, and no genetic support was found for the generic status of Boocercus. Although associations within the Antilopinae (comprising the tribes Neotragini and Antilopini) could not be unequivocally resolved, there was nonetheless convincing evidence of non-monophyly for the tribe Neotragini, with the Suni antelope (Neotragus moschatus) grouping as a sister taxon to the Impala (Aepyceros melampus, tribe indeterminate, sensu Gentry, 1992) and the Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) falling within the duiker antelope tribe (Cephalophini).

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