Comparative phylogeography and phylogenetic relationships of the four-striped mouse genus, Rhabdomys, and the ectoparasitic sucking louse, Polyplax arvicanthis

Du Toit, Nina (2013-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Within southern Africa, the widely distributed four-striped mouse Rhabdomys is parasitized by, amongst others, the host-specific ectoparasitic sucking louse, Polyplax arvicanthis. The present study investigated this parasite-host association from a phylogenetic and phylogeographic perspective utilizing mitochondrial and nuclear DNA markers. The findings support the existence of four species within Rhabdomys (three distinct lineages within the previously recognized arid-adapted R. pumilio and the mesic-adapted R. dilectus). These species have distinct geographic distributions across vegetational biomes with two documented areas of sympatry at biome boundaries. Ecological niche modelling supports a strong correlation between regional biomes and the distribution of distinct evolutionary lineages of Rhabdomys. A Bayesian relaxed molecular clock suggests that cladogenesis within the genus coincides with paleoclimatic changes (and the establishment of the biomes) at the Miocene-Pliocene boundary. Strong evidence was also found that the sucking louse P. arvicanthis consists of two genetically divergent lineages, which probably represent distinct species. The two lineages have sympatric distributions throughout most of the sampled range across the various host species and also occasionally occur sympatrically on the same host individual. Further, the absence of clear morphological differences among these parasitic lineages suggests cryptic speciation. Limited phylogeographic congruence was observed among the two P. arvicanthis lineages and the various Rhabdomys species and co-phylogenetic analyses indicated limited co-divergence with several episodes of host-switching, despite the documented host-specificity and several other traits predicted to favour congruence and co-divergence. Also, despite the comparatively smaller effective population sizes and elevated mutational rates found for P. arvicanthis, spatial genetic structure was not more pronounced in the parasite lineages compared to the hosts. These findings may be partly attributed to high vagility and social behaviour of Rhabdomys, which probably promoted parasite dispersal among hosts through frequent inter-host contact. Further, the complex biogeographic history of Rhabdomys, which involved cyclic range contractions and expansions, may have facilitated parasite divergence during periods of host allopatry, and host-switching during periods of host sympatry. Intermittent contact among Rhabdomys lineages could also have prevented adaptation of P. arvicanthis to specific host lineages, thus explaining the lack of host-specificity observed in areas of host sympatry. It is thus evident that the association between Polyplax arvicanthis and Rhabdomys has been shaped by the synergistic effects of parasite traits, biogeography, and host-related factors over evolutionary time.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Binne suidelike-Afrika word die wyd-verspreide gestreepte veldmuis, Rhabdomys, onder andere deur die gasheer-spesifieke ektoparasitiese luis, Polyplax arvicanthis, geparasitiseer. Die huidige studie het hierdie parasiet-gasheer interaksie vanuit ‘n filogenetiese en filogeografiese oogpunt ondersoek deur van beide mitokondriale en nukluêre merkers gebruik te maak. Die bevindinge dui op die bestaan van vier spesies binne Rhabdomys, waaronder drie nuwe genetiese groepe binne die voorheen erkende R. pumilio asook R. dilectus. Hierdie spesies het nie-oorvleulende geografiese verspreidings binne spesefieke plantegroei biome met twee geidentifiseerde areas van simpatriese voorkoms by bioom grense. Ekologiese nis modellering ondersteun ‘n sterk korrelasie tussen biome en die verspreiding van die evolusionêre groepe binne Rhabdomys. ‘n Bayesiaanse verslapte molekulêre klok dui daarop dat kladoginese binne die genus gedurende paleoklimatiese veranderinge, wat tot die totstandkoming van die huidige biome gelei het, by die Mioseen-Plioseen grens plaasgevind het. Sterk bewyse is ook gevind dat die parasitiese luis P. arvicanthis uit twee geneties verskillende groepe, wat heel moontlik afsonderlike spesies verteenwoordig, bestaan. Hierdie genetiese groepe het simpatriese verspreidings oor meeste van die gebestudeerde geografiese area op die verskeie gasheer spesies en mag ook soms simpatries op dieselfde gasheer individu voorkom. Verder dui die afwesigheid van duidelike morfologiese verskille tusssen die parasiet genetiese groepe op moontlike kriptiese spesiasie. Beperkte filogeografiese ooreenstemming is tussen die P. arvicanthis genetiese groepe en die Rhabdomys spesies waargeneem en die vergelykende-filogenetiese analises het aangedui dat daar beperkte gesementlike-divergensie plaasgevind het met verskeie episodes van gasheer-wisseling, ten spyte van die gasheer-spesifieke aard van die parasiete asook verskeie ander kenmerke wat veronderstel is om filogeografiese ooreenstemming en gesementlike-divergensie te bevorder. Ten spyte van die vergelykbaar kleiner effektiewe bevolking groottes en verhoogde mutasie tempo wat vir P. arvicanthis gevind is, is die geografiese genetiese struktuur nie meer gedifferensieёrd in die parasiet groepe as in die gasheer nie. Hierdie bevindinge mag deels verklaar word deur die hoё beweeglikheid asook die sosiale gedrag van Rhabdomys, wat waarskynlik parasiet beweging tussen gashere bevorder deur gereelde tussen-gasheer kontak. Die komplekse biogeografiese geskiedenis van Rhabdomys, wat sikliese inkrimping en uitsetting van die geografiese verspreiding behels het, het heel moontlik parasiet divergensie tydens tydperke van gasheer allopatrie asook gasheer-wisseling tydens tydperke van gasheer simpatrie, gefasiliteer. Tussentydse kontak tussen Rhabdomys genetiese groepe kon aanpassing van P. arvicanthis tot sekere gasheer genetiese groepe verhoed het en verklaar dus die afwesigheid van waargenome gasheer-spesifisiteit in areas van gasheer simpatrie. Dit is dus duidelik dat die assosiasie tussen P. arvicanthis en Rhabdomys deur die sinergistiese uitwerking van parasiet kenmerke, biogeografie, asook gasheer-verwante faktore oor evolusionêre tyd gevorm is.

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