• Arvicolinae;
  • cryptic species;
  • Microtus anatolicus;
  • Microtus dogramacii;
  • Microtus guentheri;
  • Microtus irani;
  • Microtus socialis;
  • molecular systematics;
  • taxonomic richness

We established a cytochrome b (cyt b) phylogeny for six species of social voles. A Bayesian approach to phylogenetic reconstruction (BI) and a maximum likelihood (ML) tree revealed a dichotomy into two major clusters, namely a Microtus guentheri cluster and a M. socialis cluster. The three main lineages that emerged within each of these two clusters were separated by the K2P divergences which are above the intraspecific variation in Microtus. All six species were also retrieved in the minimum spanning network. Within its present taxonomic scope, M. guentheri is paraphyletic and consists of two allopatric sibling species: M. guentheri (Syria, Israel) and M. hartingi (Anatolia and the Balkans). The closest relative to these two species is M. dogramacii, which is possibly a sister species to M. hartingi. The two geographic samples were identified as M. irani, one from Shiraz (Iran) and the other from Balkusan (Turkey). The cyt b sequence confirmed the specific status of M. anatolicus within the M. socialis cluster. Although five species of social voles occur within a radius of < 500 km in the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean, small-scale sympatry is exceptional. Species richness in this region possibly originates from past fragmentation with subsequent allopatric speciation in refugial areas. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 98, 121–128.