Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 147–163 | Cite as

Phylogenetic and Morphological Analysis of Birch Mice (Genus Sicista, Family Sminthidae, Rodentia) in the Kazak Cradle with Description of a New Species

  • Tamás CserkészEmail author
  • Attila Fülöp
  • Shyryn Almerekova
  • Tamás Kondor
  • Levente Laczkó
  • Gábor Sramkó
Original Paper


Birch mice (genus Sicista) represent an early diverging lineage of dipodid rodents with a wide geographic distribution and a cryptic lifestyle that makes the genus difficult to study. As a result, reconstructing the evolutionary phylogeny of the group remains incomplete. Here, we report the molecular phylogeny of the genus based on mitochondrial and nuclear markers sampled from 12 of the 14 known living species. Moreover, we discuss morphological character (i.e., fur coloration and glans penis morphology) evolution in the genus. We have found a strong agreement between phylogenetic relationships among species and morphological peculiarities, both supporting a mountainous origin of Sicista, and a recent spread towards lowlands of some lineages. Glans penis structure turned out to be rather simple in the early lineages, but became more complex in phylogenetically later diverging taxa. The presence of dorsal stripes is associated with the colonization of lowland habitats. In addition, we describe here a species new to science from the Tien Shan Mountains, and provide evidence of uncovered cryptic diversity from the region. Additionally, we revise the identification of a specimen collected from China, thus documenting the presence of Sicista pseudonapaea, previously unreported from that country.


Altai Mts. character evolution glans penis male genitalia Dipodoidea Tien Shan 



We are grateful to Prof. N. M. Mukhitdinov and K. Jakipova from the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (Almaty), to Prof. K. P. Prokopov and M. A. Bazarovna from the Sarsen Amanzholov East Kazakhstan State University (Öskemen), to Е. Mustafin and G. A. Ulanbekovna from the Katon-Karagay National Park Directorate, and to K. Tenkebaev from the Markakol Reserve Directorate for all their help and the authorities for collection permits. We thank T. Görföl and G. Csorba from the Hungarian Natural History Museum (Budapest) for their support. We are highly indebted to Polina A. Volkova (South-West Moscow High-School, Moscow, Russia) for her irreplaceable help in the field, and Francis Raoul (CNRS Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté UsC INRA) for providing the specimen of Sicista concolor. Tamás Malkócs kindly polished the English of the manuscript.


This work was generously funded by the Rufford Small Grants Foundations’ ‘Hidden Biodiversity of Mountain Meadows in East Kazakhstan’ project, and the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA PD105116 to TCs, OTKA PD109686 to GS, and OTKA K112527 to AF). Work of AF was supported through the New National Excellence Program of the Ministry of Human Capacities of Hungary. The work of GS was supported by the “János Bolyai Scholarship” (BO/00001/15) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Supplementary material

10914_2017_9409_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamás Cserkész
    • 1
    Email author
  • Attila Fülöp
    • 2
  • Shyryn Almerekova
    • 3
  • Tamás Kondor
    • 1
  • Levente Laczkó
    • 4
  • Gábor Sramkó
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Systematic Zoology and EcologyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.MTA-DE “Lendület” Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human BiologyUniversity of DebrecenDebrecenHungary
  3. 3.Department of Biodiversity and BioresourcesAl-Farabi Kazakh National UniversityAlmatyKazakhstan
  4. 4.Department of BotanyUniversity of DebrecenDebrecenHungary
  5. 5.MTA-DE “Lendület” Evolutionary Phylogenomics Research GroupDebrecenHungary

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