Name: Moutinho AF
Title: Mountain vicariance in gerboas, Jaculus spp., from North Africa
Institution: University of Porto
Deserts and arid regions are featured by their extreme conditions and variability that determines its evolution and diversification processes. Sahara-Sahel has been through intense changes in space and time, alternating between more arid and more humid phases, which led to periodic modifications of the desert biota and changes in the ecological composition of landscapes. In this respect, Jaculus jerboas acquired the attention of researchers because of their vast and broad distribution across the Saharan-Arabian extent and their phenotypic and genetic polymorphism.
This study focused on two main objectives: (1) assess the distribution of cryptic species around central Sahara Mountains; and (2) test the importance of Ethiopian highlands as a barrier limiting dispersion of a species. This research was based on the investigation of genetic divergence using a mitochondrial marker (cyt b).
Results suggest two divergent lineages (J. jaculus and J. deserti) with a broad and sympatric distribution through all the extent of North Africa. This overlapping occurrence represented in all the analyses proposes the absence of barriers limiting dispersion of the African jerboas, allowing the hypothesis that migration between distinct geographical regions might be common. However more studies are needed within this region, mainly in Horn of Africa, due to a possible geographical isolation of the Arabian Peninsula verified in the present study. This could be an indicative of a distribution pattern.
This research highlights the wide and broad overlapped ranges of a species in the extreme conditions of a desert. The knowledge of the events that shape its diversification would help to understand their evolutionary history, which is important to understand their distribution trends.