Lawrence, Kansas (PRWEB) June 25, 2013
Journal of Mammalogy – Tracing a family’s lineage can reunite members long separated by distance and time. The same can occur in taxonomic designation. Through phylogenetic analysis of a Pacific Northwest mountain beaver, researchers have found that two subspecies are actually one and the same. This has implications for conservation efforts as both subspecies have classifications on the endangered species list in Canada.
The Journal of Mammalogy presents a study of the Aplodontiidae family, which contains one extant genus and only one species—the mountain beaver, Aplodontia rufa. It currently has seven subspecies. First described from accounts of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, this beaver weighs a little more than 2 pounds and favors moist environments. Its range is small, extending only from southern British Columbia to northern California.
Tissue, hair, and blood samples were obtained from National Wildlife Research Center research projects and from population control efforts. Whole genomic DNA was extracted for amplification and sequencing of genes. These molecular analyses can determine evolutionary relationships and divergence of species.
After examining its evolutionary history and exploring the individual ranges of the subspecies, researchers are recommending that two subspecies north of the Columbia River be joined. Because no distinct differences were found between them, A. rufa rainieri and A. rufa rufa would become A. rufa olympica.
Ironically, while these two subspecies are considered vulnerable in Canada, they are considered pests in the United States. They dine on newly planted seedlings and saplings, and rapidly colonize recently harvested or reforested timber areas, making them an enemy to forest production.
Without clear knowledge of distinctions and distribution of a species, it is impossible to set conservation goals. While the proposed A. rufa olympica would have greater numbers than previously thought, this study supported the conservation status of the three southernmost subspecies. A. rufa humboldtiana, A. rufa nigra, and A. rufa phaea in coastal California represent isolated and endangered lineages of the mountain beaver.
Full text of “Molecular phylogeny of an ancient rodent family (Aplodontiidae),” Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 94, No. 3, 2013, is now available.
About the Journal of Mammalogy
The Journal of Mammalogy, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mammalogists, is produced six times per year. A highly respected scientific journal, it details the latest research in the science of mammalogy and was recently named one of the top 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine in the last century by the Special Libraries Association. For more information, visit http://www.mammalogy.org/.
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