Chromosomal evolution and phylogeny of golden moles and tenrecs (Mammalia : Afrosoricida)

Gilbert, Clement (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2008-03)

Thesis (PhD (Botany and Zoology)) -- University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


Afrosoricida is a 65 million years old (my) eutherian order that together with the Tubulidentata (aardvark) and Macroscelidea (elephant shrews) form the Afroinsectiphillia, a subclade of Afrotheria. It includes two families – Chrysochloridae (nine genera of golden moles) and Tenrecidae (11 genera of tenrecs) – that collectively represent ~59% of the afrotherian generic diversity. This study presents the first comprehensive cytogenetic comparison between members of these two families (seven genera and 11 species/subspecies of golden moles, and two genera and 11 species of tenrecs) using G- and C-banding and chromosome painting. All detected rearrangements are interpreted in a strict cladistic framework. In the case of Chrysochloridae, this provides evidence for a sister relationship between Chrysochloris and Cryptochloris, the monophyly of the Amblysomus genus, and for the elevation of A. hottentotus meesteri to specific rank. The detection of telomeric-like repeats in the centromeres of all chromosomes of the Amblysomus species/subspecies but not in those of A. h. meesteri further strengthens its recognition as a distinct species. Parsimony analysis of chromosomal rearrangements within Tenrecidae, the second Afrotheria assemblage studied, showed that rearrangements which could be interpreted as Whole Arm Reciprocal Translocations (WARTs) were more likely to be the result of Robertsonian translocations. Four interspecific associations are recovered within Microgale that are consistent with morphological and molecular characters. It was also possible to infer ancestral karyotypes for the Chrysochloridae, Oryzorictinae and the two tenrecid genera, Oryzorictes and Microgale. Given the relatively high karyotypic diversity observed among some Microgale species and the prevailing debates on chromosomal evolution and regional palaeoenvironmental fluctuations, it is suggested that Microgale be added to the list of taxa where structural rearrangements are likely to have played a role in speciation. Using Genbank sequences and a relaxed Bayesian clock method, we estimate the age of the family Chrysochloridae at ~28.5 my and that of the genus Microgale at ~9.9 my. Based on these dates, it can be shown that most of the evolutionary branches are characterized by a slow rate of chromosomal change, but that markedly high rates are observed in some Microgale species and to a lesser extent in the lineage leading to A. robustus. The rates of chromosomal evolution and other cytogenetic features highlighted in this study are discussed in light of recent advances in understanding the molecular mechanims that underpin changes to genomic architecture.

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