Reassessment of the Alticola roylei species group in Northern Pakistan through morphology, molecular systematics, and biogeography

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The Ohio State University

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High elevation mountain ranges contribute to the speciation of mammal species. Mountain voles (genus Alticola) inhabit high elevations in Central Asia. Within the genus, taxonomic relationships among the Alticola roylei species group are primarily determined by morphological characteristics such as the distinctive M3 molar and tail length. We hypothesized that the mountain ranges of Northern Pakistan inhabited by these species, along with valley and river barriers, may present an opportunity for diversification in this group. I combined molecular data (n=83) and morphological data (n=118) to analyze individuals of the Alticola roylei species group. I sequenced individuals using the Cytb gene and utilized the sequences to construct a phylogenetic tree under a Bayesian framework. We compared these results to morphological characters including M3 molar (obtained by collaborator Eve Rowland), and external measurements. We observed the morphological measurements may not be diagnostic in determining the boundaries of the species. Distinct clades seem to occupy specific geographic distributions across Northern Pakistan. Molecular data places individuals together that may vary in diagnostic morphological criteria.



Alticola, Bayesian coalescent model, third molar, mountain ranges of Northern Pakistan