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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2002 Mar;22(3):342-56.

A phylogenetic comparison of red deer and wapiti using mitochondrial DNA.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2V9, Canada.


A phylogeny was constructed for red deer/wapiti (Cervus elaphus) subspecies using sequence data from the control region of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The tree was rooted using Cervus nippon (sika deer), Cervus albirostris (Thorold's white-lipped deer), and several Odocoileinae species. A division between the mtDNA haplotypes of red deer (European) and wapiti (Asian/North American) corresponds to subspecies found on opposite sides of the Himalayan Mountains and Gobi, which suggests wapiti should be reconsidered for the status of C. canadensis. Using parsimony and distance analysis, red deer and wapiti are derived from a single recent common ancestor, which is consistent with current taxonomy that recognizes the subspecies of Cervus elaphus as monophyletic group. However, maximum-likelihood analysis using weighted transitional substitutions caused red deer to form a sister group to sika deer (Cervus nippon) and wapiti. A phenetic comparison revealed wapiti also share more nucleotide similarities with sika deer, although approximately 5% sequence divergence separates wapiti, sika, and red deer. Phylogenetic evidence from the cytochrome b sequences corroborated observations from the control region. Observations from this study suggest that the species status of wapiti should be reinstated.

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