Micro- and macrogeographical genetic structure of colonies of naked mole-rats Heterocephalus glaber


C. G. Faulkes Fax: 0171-586-2870; E-mail: c.faulkes@ucl.ac.uk


Patterns of genetic structure in eusocial naked mole-rat populations were quantified within and among geographically distant populations using multilocus DNA fingerprinting and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence analysis. Individuals within colonies were genetically almost monomorphic, sharing the same mtDNA control region haplotype and having coefficients of band sharing estimated from DNA fingerprints ranging from 0.93 to 0.99. Family analysis of a hybrid captive colony of naked mole-rats with increased levels of genetic variability using multilocus DNA fingerprinting gave results consistent with Mendelian inheritance, and has revealed for the first time that multiple paternity can occur. In a survey of wild colonies from Ethiopia, Somalia and locations in northern and southern Kenya, we have examined mtDNA control region sequence variation in 42 individuals from 15 colonies, and together with multilocus DNA fingerprinting and mtDNA cytochrome-b sequence analysis in selected individuals have shown that these populations show considerable genetic divergence. Most of the variance in sequence divergence was found to be between geographical locations (Φct= 0.68) and there was a significant correlation between sequence divergence and geographical separation of haplotypes. Six colonies from Mtito Andei in southern Kenya shared the same control region haplotype, suggesting a recent common maternal ancestor. In contrast, out of four colonies at Lerata in north Kenya, three haplotypes were identified, and phylogenetic analysis suggests that this area may be a zone where two distinct lineages are in close proximity. Genetic distances were maximal between Ethiopian and southern Kenyan populations at 5.8% for cytochrome-b, and are approaching interspecific values seen between other Bathyergids.