Phylogeography of the common vole (Microtus arvalis) with particular emphasis on the colonization of the Orkney archipelago


Dr M. Jaarola. Fax: + 46 46 147874; E-mail:


To investigate the human introduction of the common vole Microtus arvalis onto the Orkney islands, the complete cytochrome b gene was sequenced in 41 specimens from both Orkney (four localities) and elsewhere in their range (26 localities). Orkney voles belonged to the same phylogenetic lineage, ‘Western’, as individuals from France and Spain indicating southwestern Europe as the most likely source area for the islands. This result is of interest with respect to the movement and trading links of the Neolithic people who likely transported the voles. As well as the Western lineage, our phylogenetic trees revealed three other purely European lineages: the ‘Italian’ (single specimen from N. Italy), the ‘Central’ (Germany, Netherlands, Denmark) and the ‘Eastern’ (Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Finland, European Russia). Individuals from European Russia, W. Siberia, Georgia, Ukraine and Armenia formed a fifth distinct lineage coinciding with the distribution of the ‘obscurus’ chromosomal form of M. arvalis. These phylogeographical data suggest that M. arvalis occupied multiple refugia during the last glaciation.