Phylogeography of field voles (Microtus agrestis) in Eurasia inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences


Maarit Jaarola. Fax: + 46 46 14 78 74; E-mail:


In a distribution-wide phylogeographic survey of the field vole (Microtus agrestis), 75 specimens from 56 localities across Eurasia were examined for DNA sequence variation along the whole 1140 base pair (bp) mitochondrial (mt) cytochrome b gene. The species is subdivided into three main mtDNA phylogeographic groups — western, eastern and southern — with largely allopatric distributions. The western phylogeographical group is found in west and central Europe and spread most probably from a glacial refugium in the Carpathians. The eastern group covers a large range from Lithuania to central Asia, and probably originated from a southeast European source (e.g. the southern Urals or the Caucasus). The southern group occupies an area from Portugal to Hungary, with division into two distinct mtDNA sublineages that presumably derive from separate glacial refugia in the Iberian Peninsula. Molecular clock estimates suggest that the western and eastern field vole populations separated during the last glaciation, whereas the southern population dates back 0.5–0.9 Myr. High levels of mtDNA variation indicate relatively large population sizes and subdivisions within phylogeographic groups during the last glaciation. We report a possible new suture zone in east Europe.