• Cryptomys;
  • Zambia;
  • karyotype;
  • chromosomal diversity;
  • geomorphological barrier


The genus Cryptomys contains a number of social, subterranean rodents that are widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Specimens of Cryptomys from 23 localities in south-west Zambia were karyotyped using a standard staining protocol. A minimum of five metaphases per specimen was scored for 2n and the fundamental number (NF) was determined in females. Nine new karyotypes, which may represent several new species, were identified: (1) 2n= 42, NF = 78 (Dongo, Southern Province); (2) 2n= 44, NF = 76 (Salujinga, North-western Province); (3) 2n= 45, NF = 78 (Lochinvar, Southern Province); (4) 2n= 52, NF = 86 (Chinyingi, North-western Province); (5) 2n= 54, NF = 78 (Monze, Southern Province); (6) 2n= 56, NF = 76 (Watopa, North-western Province); (7) 2n= 58, NF = 80 (Livingstone, Southern Province); (8) 2n= 58, NF = 86 (Senanga, Western Province); (9) 2n= 60, NF = 82 (Kataba, Western Province; type locality of C. damarensis micklemi.) Contrary to previous reports, the specimens from Kataba and Senanga on the left bank of the Zambezi do not correspond to C. damarensis and should be considered a separate species: C. micklemi (as confirmed by molecular analyses; Ingram, Burda & Honeycutt, 2004). According to the karyotype, C. damarensis occurs only on the right bank of the Zambezi River in the Western Province. In contrast to the high karyotypic variability on the right bank of the Kafue River, it was found that C anselli (2n= 68) is widely distributed throughout the Central province on the left bank of the Kafue River. The resulting pattern of occurrence of the different karyotypes correlates well with the extant river system configuration that separates most karyotypes. We hypothesize that geomorphological changes and in particular river system dynamics in recent geological times have played an important role in the chromosomal diversification and may have provided opportunities for speciation to occur.