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Phylogeography and genetic diversity of the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in China: Implications for the species' postglacial expansion history

Liu, Zhu, Li, Bo, Ma, Jianzhang, Zheng, Dong, Xu, Yanchun
Mammalian biology = 2014 v.79 no.4 pp. 247-253
geographical distribution, haplotypes, Palearctic region, mitochondrial DNA, squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris, phylogeny, nucleotide sequences, coasts, cytochrome b, genetic variation, phylogeography, Eastern European region, Italy, Western European region, Russia, United Kingdom, China
The geographical distribution of Sciurus vulgaris spans much of the Palearctic from western Europe and the UK eastward to the pacific coast of East Asia. S. vulgaris occurs in China only in the far northwest and the northeast. Understanding of the species’ postglacial expansion history in East Asia has been limited by the paucity of molecular data. In this study, we used partial D-loop and cytochrome b gene sequences to assess mitochondrial DNA variation in S. vulgaris in China. Our objectives were to (1) determine phylogeographical patterns of S. vulgaris in China; (2) understand the species’ postglacial expansion history in this region; and (3) quantify genetic diversity levels within S. vulgaris populations in China. We identified a supported phylogenetic group in S. vulgaris from China, and found no tendency for haplotypes to cluster by geographic region. Our analysis of S. vulgaris from China and other regions supports the hypothesis that the Calabria region of southern Italy is a glacial refugium for the species. We tentatively propose a postglacial expansion pattern for the squirrels: migrating from Calabria via Central and Eastern Europe to Russia and from there to China, and firstly to the northwest and then to northeast in China. We found high levels of genetic diversity in S. vulgaris populations across China as a whole, and discussed its influential factors.