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Keywords:

  • Arvicolinae;
  • Balkan endemics;
  • Chionomys nivalis;
  • competitive exclusion;
  • extinction

ABSTRACT

  • 1
    Martino's vole Dinaromys bogdanovi is the only living member of the Tertiary genus Dinaromys, and probably also the only surviving member of the Pliomys lineage. The range of the genus Dinaromys has historically been small and its rate of evolution has been low.
  • 2
    Martino's vole shows all three attributes of rarity in accordance with Rabinowitz's ‘seven forms of rarity’ model: (i) its range is estimated at 43 545 km2 but the area of occupancy is <5200 km2; (ii) its habitat requirements are narrow and the species is strictly tied to exposed, karstified bedrock; and (iii) current populations are invariably small and frequently isolated.
  • 3
    The Pleistocene range of Martino's vole exceeded the recent one, at least in the north-western part of the Balkans, and its shrinkage continued into the Holocene.
  • 4
    Martino's vole may be in competition with the European snow vole Chionomys nivalis, which has a very similar morphology and presumably identical habitat requirements, but is shifted towards an r-selected life-history strategy. Long-term sympatry of these voles has probably resulted in competitive exclusion of the relatively K-selected Martino's vole by the relatively r-selected European snow vole.
  • 5
    Martino's vole consists of two deeply divergent (about one million years ago) phylogeographical lineages, which may represent distinct cryptic species. Rarity is particularly pronounced in the north-western lineage to the west of the Neretva River, where rocky habitats are largely occupied by the European snow vole.
  • 6
    In the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals, Martino's vole is classified as ‘near threatened’. However, the north-western lineage, which is phylogeographically most divergent and has the greatest genetic diversity, is classed as a ‘vulnerable’ evolutionary significant unit on the basis of its small area of occupancy (<2000 km2). Long-term population monitoring is an essential step in evaluating the conservation needs of Martino's vole.