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Keywords:

  • Phylogeography;
  • Mus minutoides;
  • savannah;
  • forest;
  • vicariance;
  • West Central Africa;
  • nested clade analysis;
  • cytochrome b;
  • late Pleistocene

Abstract

We studied the phylogeography of the strict savannah pygmy mice Mus (Nannomys) minutoides in West Central Africa. A total of 846 base pairs of the cytochrome b sequence were obtained for 66 individuals collected in Gabon, Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. These sequences were compared to those of M. minutoides from other African countries and to eight other species of the genus Mus. We performed maximum likelihood, Bayesian and nested clade analyses, as well as neutrality tests and time estimates. We show that M. minutoides is a well-differentiated monophyletic species that separated from other pygmy mice 1.17 Myr ago. A distinct West Central African M. minutoides clade diverged early from the other African populations of the species, with a more recent common ancestor dating 0.14 Myr. West Central African populations are globally homogeneous, despite the present fragmentation of savannahs by the rain forest. However, our analyses show an unexpected vicariance between geographically close savannahs, embedded in the rain forest in Central Gabon. One of these populations is genetically more similar to very distant peripheral populations than to three closely neighbouring populations situated on both sides of the Ogooué River. A non-river geographical barrier probably persisted in this area, durably isolating these local populations. This hypothesis about the history of the savannah landscape should be testable through the biogeographical analysis of other strict savannah small mammal species.