Phylogenetic relationship and variation of alarm call traits of populations of red‐cheeked ground squirrels ( Spermophilus erythrogenys sensu lato) suggest taxonomic delineation

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2019
Authors:Matrosova, IVANOVA, Volodina, Volodin, ALEXANDROV, Sibiryakova, ERMAKOV
Keywords:alarm call, control region, cytochrome b, mitochondrial DNA, vocal communication

Distribution area and taxonomic borders within the species complex Spermophilus erythrogenys sensu lato remain questionable. Early evidence suggests that red‐cheeked ground squirrels of Southeast Kazakhstan are remarkably different in terms of the acoustic structure of their alarm calls from the red‐cheeked ground squirrels of the Kurgan region in Russia. In this study, we analyzed the differences in the acoustic structure of the alarm call and mitochondrial DNA (complete control region, 1005–1006 bp and complete cytochrome b gene, 1140 bp) in 3 populations of red‐cheeked ground squirrels (Tara, Altyn‐Emel and Balkhash), all located within areas isolated by geographical barriers in Southeast Kazakhstan. We found that the alarm call variables were similar between the 3 study populations and differed by the maximum fundamental frequency (8.46 ± 0.75 kHz) from the values (5.62 ± 0.06 kHz) reported for the red‐cheeked ground squirrels from the Kurgan region of Russia. Variation in mtDNA control region was only 3% and variation in cytochrome b gene was only 2.5%. Phylogenetic trees based on cytochrome b gene polymorphism of 44 individuals from the study area and adjacent territories indicated 3 clades with high (98–100%) bootstrap support: “intermedius,” “brevicauda” and “iliensis”). We conclude that the 3 study populations in Southeast Kazakhstan belong to the clade intermedius and suggest a taxonomical revision of the species complex Spermophilus erythrogenys sensu lato, including analyses of nuclear DNA and alarm calls for populations of the brevicauda and iliensis clades.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith