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Keywords:

  • mammals;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • northern grasshopper mice;
  • phylogeography;
  • Quaternary;
  • systematics

The details of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) phylogenetic structure of the northern grasshopper mouse Onychomys leucogaster were examined using populations from a postulated area of endemism that includes three arid regions (Colorado Plateaus, Interior Plains, and Wyoming Basins) in western North America. Fifteen tetra- and heptanucleotide restriction enzymes were used to assay restriction-site variation in a 2150-bp PCR-amplified fragment of mtDNA representing the ND2 and part of the COI gene regions. A total of 18 mtDNA haplotypes were detected. Although overall genetic divergence among these haplotypes was low (average = 1.1%), phylogeographic structuring was apparent. Notably, a clear phylogenetic split separated one group of haplotypes restricted to the Wyoming Basins from all others. This phylogenetic split was further corroborated by examination of nucleotide sequence variation from a 270-bp stretch of the mtDNA cytochrome b gene. Overall geographic and phylogenetic patterns suggest a complex history of geographic structuring and subsequent mixing of populations of grasshopper mice throughout the late Pleistocene. These patterns of variation are evaluated relative to alternative hypotheses about biotic responses to Quaternary climatic oscillations in western North American arid regions.