Conservation Genetics of Kangaroo Mice, Genus Microdipodops
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- Light, J.E., Hafner, J.C., Upham, N.S. et al. J Mammal Evol (2013) 20: 129. doi:10.1007/s10914-012-9193-2
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The two currently recognized species of kangaroo mice, Microdipodops megacephalus and M. pallidus, inhabit sandy soils of the Great Basin Desert in western North America. Given their habitat specificity and the fluctuating climate throughout the Pleistocene, kangaroo mice likely endured a turbulent biogeographic history that resulted in disjunct distributions and isolation of genetic lineages. Recent phylogenetic investigations using mitochondrial data have revealed several mitochondrial clades within this genus that may represent cryptic species. These mitochondrial clades are genetically unique, occupy relatively small distributions, and, as such, may be at an increased risk of extinction due to climate change and extensive recent habitat alteration. Herein, we apply haplotype network, population genetic, and historical demographic analyses to mitochondrial data of each Micropdipodops species and mitochondrial clade to assess conservation genetics within kangaroo mice. Results indicate that each mitochondrial clade is a distinct lineage with little to no gene flow occurring among clades. Additionally, historical demographic analyses support past population expansions and identify locations of past refugium for each distinct lineage. Although mitochondrial data indicate that the clades appear to be in approximate genetic equilibrium and have not suffered any extreme bottlenecks over time, there is still concern for the survival of smaller and more vulnerable Microdipodops subpopulations due to impending habitat threats in the Great Basin Desert.