Albumin evolution and phylogenetic relationships among Greek rodents of the families Arvicolidae and Muridae

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Abstract

The phylogenetic relationships of seven rodent species Microtus atticus, M. thomasi, M. epiroticus (family Arvicolidae) and Mus domesticus, Rattus norvegicus, Apodemus flavicollis and A. mystacinus (family Muridae) have been studied. In order to define these relationships we study the albumin evolution using the micro-complement fixation test (MC'F). No phylogenetic (immunological) distance between M. atticus and M. thomasi was found, a fact which confirms from the biochemical point of view the opinion that the former taxon is a synonym of the latter one. A molecular time scale relating MC'F immunological distances and geological time was established based on the assumption of a rate of 100 amino acid substitutions per–20 million years. The time of divergence between M. epiroticus and M. thomasi was estimated to be 0.5–0.6 million years ago (Pleistocene). Such a recent divergence corroborates the opinion based on morphological and protein electrophoretic criteria according to which Terricola (formerly Pitymys) must be considered as a subgenus of the genus Microtus and not as a distinct genus Pitymys, as previously had been accepted. Apodemus flavicollis and A. mystacinus were separated about 0.65–0.8 million years ago (Pleistocene). The Rattus norvegicus lineage was separated–12.5 million years ago (end of Miocene), shortly before the Mus and Apodemus divergence. Our data indicate that the common ancestor of Arvicolidae and Muridae lived–25 million years ago (early Miocene). All these results are in agreement with paleontological and some recent DNA-DNA hybridization and electrophoretic data.

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