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Molecular phylogeny and systematics of Dipodoidea: a test of morphology-based hypotheses

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  • Rodentia
  • Dipodoidea
  • Phylogeny
  • Systematics
  • Life Sciences :: Zoology [F14]
  • Sciences Du Vivant :: Zoologie [F14]
  • Mathematics


The superfamily Dipodoidea (Rodentia, Myomorpha) in its current interpretation contains a single family subdivided into six subfamilies. Four of them include morphologically specialized bipedal arid-dwelling jerboas (Dipodinae – three-toed jerboas, Allactaginae – fivetoed jerboas, Cardiocraniinae – pygmy jerboas and Euchoreutinae – long-eared jerboas), the other two are represented by more generalized quadrupedal taxa (Zapodinae – jumping mice and Sminthinae – birch mice). Despite considerable effort from morphologists, the taxonomy as well as the phylogeny of the Dipodoidea remains controversial. Strikingly, molecular approach has never been envisaged to investigate these questions. In this study, the phylogenetic relationships among the main dipodoid lineages were reconstructed for the first time using DNA sequence data from four nuclear genes (IRBP, GHR, BRCA1, RAG1). No evidence of conflict among genes was revealed. The same robustly supported tree topology was inferred from the concatenated alignment whatever the phylogenetic methods used (maximum parsimony, maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic methods). Sminthinae branches basally within the dipodoids followed by Zapodinae. Monophyletic Cardiocraniinae is sister to all other jerboas. Within the latter, the monophyly of both Dipodinae and Allactaginae is highly supported. The relationships between Dipodinae, Allactaginae and Euchoreutinae should be regarded as unresolved trichotomy. Morphological hypotheses were confronted to findings based on the presented molecular data. As a result, previously proposed sister group relationships between Euchoreutes and Sicista, Paradipus and Cardiocraniinae as well as the monophyly of Cardiocaniinae + Dipodinae were rejected. However, the latter association is consistently supported by most morphological analyses. The basis of the obvious conflict between genes and morphology remains unclear. Suggested modifications to the taxonomy of Dipodoidea imply recognition of three families: Sminthidae, Zapodidae and Dipodidae, the latter including Cardiocraniinae, Euchoreutinae, Allactaginae and Dipodinae as subfamilies.

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