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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jun 9;95(12):6893-6.

A genetic record of population isolation in pocket gophers during Holocene climatic change.

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Mountain Research Center and Department of Biology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA.


A long-standing question in Quaternary paleontology is whether climate-induced, population-level phenotypic change is a result of large-scale migration or evolution in isolation. To directly measure genetic variation through time, ancient DNA and morphologic variation was measured over 2,400 years in a Holocene sequence of pocket gophers (Thomomys talpoides) from Lamar Cave, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Ancient specimens and modern samples collected near Lamar Cave share mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences that are absent from adjacent localities, suggesting that the population was isolated for the entire period. In contrast, diastemal length, a morphologic character correlated with body size and nutritional level, changed predictably in response to climatic change. Our results demonstrate that small mammal populations can experience the long-term isolation assumed by many theoretical models of microevolutionary change.

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