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Phylogeography of the Northern short-tailed shrew, Blarina brevicauda (Insectivora: Soricidae): past fragmentation and postglacial recolonization


S. V. Brant. *Present address: 119 Foster Hall, Museum of Natural Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA. Fax: (225) 578–3075; E-mail:


Blarina brevicauda is distributed across the northeastern region of North America, in areas previously covered by Pleistocene glaciers. Previous molecular systematic study of the species in the genus Blarina suggested the presence of two distinct eastern and western phylogroups within B. brevicauda, in agreement with traditionally recognized semi-species. To expand the previous work, a collection of 76 individuals from 14 localities collected throughout the range of B. brevicauda was used to assess the mitochondrial (mt) cytochrome b genealogy for this species. Minimum evolution, maximum parsimony, analysis of molecular variance and nested clade analysis each supported the same conclusions of two well-differentiated and monophyletic east–west groups, separated by the Mississippi River. Denser sampling in areas immediately East of the Mississippi basin revealed further subdivision within the eastern phylogroup into an East-Central and an Appalachian clade. The western phylogroup differed from the eastern phylogroup by 2.5% mean absolute DNA sequence difference. About 65% of the genetic variance among samples was explained by the east–west subdivision alone. High haplotype diversities, low nucleotide diversities and unimodal mismatch distributions within subclades suggest recent expansion or diversification within each group. No phylogeographic structure was found within the western phylogroup, but genetic structure because of restricted gene flow and isolation by distance was inferred for the eastern group. The present distribution of B. brevicauda is best explained by past fragmentation and range expansion events during and following the Pleistocene glacial cycles.