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Alhajeri B, Hunt O, Steppan S (2015)
Molecular systematics of gerbils and deomyines (Rodentia: Gerbillinae, Deomyinae) and a test of desert adaptation in the tympanic bulla
Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research.
Recent molecular studies in gerbils found multiple instances of discordance between molecular and morphological phylogenies. In this study, we analyse the largest molecular data set to date of gerbils and their sister group the deomyines to estimate their phylogenetic relationships. Maximum-likelihood and Bayesian analyses were largely concordant, and both generally had high levels of node support. For gerbils, the results were generally concordant with previous molecular phylogenies based on allozymes, chromosomes, DNA/DNA hybridization and DNA sequences, and discordant with morphological phylogenies. None of the traditional gerbil tribes and subtribes were monophyletic. In addition, paraphyly was found in the genera Gerbillus, Gerbilliscus and Meriones as well as in five subgenera within Dipodillus, Gerbillurus and Meriones. Short branches separating taxa in small clusters within Dipodillus and Meriones suggest synonymy. Within deomyines, all genera and subgenera were monophyletic; however, two species groups within Acomys appear to contain synonymous taxa. We also find support for the discordance between molecular and morphological phylogenies in gerbils being partly due to convergent adaptations to arid environments, primarily in the suite of traits associated with inflation of the tympanic bullae. Relative bullar size does appear to be a desert adaptation and is correlated with aridity independent of phylogeny. Further, it varies more strongly along bioclimatic clines than between binary habitat classifications (desert versus mesic).
Keywords: Arid environments, Muroidea, geometric morphometrics, molecular phylogenetics, skull morphology