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Contribution to the study of the genus Lemniscomys (Rodentia: Muridae). Morphometric and molecular approaches

Abstract

A total of 204 specimens belonging to eight species of the genus Lemniscomys were examined with standard morphometric measurements. Our results show that the seven Sub-Saharan species seem to follow a latitudinal gradient from the Center to the South of the African continent. The only North African species L. barbarus looks close to L. griselda and L. rosalia. We also applied a molecular analysis through PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) method for the amplification of the 16S rRNA gene. For the purpose of constructing a phylogenetic tree with Maximum Likelihood method, we extracted eight sequences from the GenBank library; seven belonging to the genus Lemniscomys and one to the genus Arvicanthis used as outgroup. We managed to identify a region comprised of 458 nucleotides of which 388 were common for all species and 70 were variable. The phylogenetic tree shows us that the sister group L. bellieri and L. macculus, is the most basal, while L. striatus and L. rosalia appears to be close to the sister group L. barbarus and L. zebra. We also noticed a difference between morphometric and molecular results; the latter are more in agreement with pelage patterns subdivision between Lemniscomys species. These differences can be explained by a high rate of phenotypic evolution that can surpass the molecular counterpart as in the case of the genus Gerbillus.

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Acknowledgments

The present study has been carried out in the Research Unit Biodiversity and Population Biology at the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis (FST). It would not have been possible without the collaboration of many people we want to thank. We express our gratitude to Mr. George Lenglet curator at “Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique” (IRSNB) and Mr. Wim Wendelen curator at “Musée Royal d’Afrique Centrale” (MRAC) and also to Mr. Maher Gtari professor at the “Faculty of Sciences of Tunis”.

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Correspondence to Imed Ben Salem.

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The authors are fully committed to the COPE guidelines (Committee On Publication Ethics) and declare that all institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. We also took all the appropriate permissions from museums authorities for the use of specimens included in the study.

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The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of the manuscript.

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Ben Salem, I., Ben Ibrahim, A., Chetoui, M. et al. Contribution to the study of the genus Lemniscomys (Rodentia: Muridae). Morphometric and molecular approaches. Biologia 73, 339–349 (2018). https://doi.org/10.2478/s11756-018-0044-3

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Keywords

  • Lemniscomys
  • Africa
  • Morphometrics
  • 16S rRNA
  • Pelage patterns