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Heredity (Edinb). 2005 Feb;94(2):217-28.

Local adaptation in the rock pocket mouse (Chaetodipus intermedius): natural selection and phylogenetic history of populations.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


Elucidating the causes of population divergence is a central goal of evolutionary biology. Rock pocket mice, Chaeotdipus intermedius, are an ideal system in which to study intraspecific phenotypic divergence because of the extensive color variation observed within this species. Here, we investigate whether phenotypic variation in color is correlated with local environmental conditions or with phylogenetic history. First, we quantified variation in pelage color (n=107 mice) and habitat color (n=51 rocks) using a spectrophotometer, and showed that there was a correlation between pelage color and habitat color across 14 sampled populations (R2=0.43). Analyses of mtDNA sequences from these same individuals revealed strong population structure in this species across its range, where most variation (63%) was partitioned between five geographic regions. Using Mantel tests, we show that there is no correlation between color variation and mtDNA phylogeny, suggesting that pelage coloration has evolved rapidly. At a finer geographical scale, high levels of gene flow between neighboring melanic and light populations suggest the selection acting on color must be quite strong to maintain habitat-specific phenotypic distributions. Finally, we raise the possibility that, in some cases, migration between populations of pocket mice inhabiting different lava flows may be responsible for similar melanic phenotypes in different populations. Together, the results suggest that color variation can evolve very rapidly over small geographic scales and that gene flow can both hinder and promote local adaptation.

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