Molecular phylogeny of Japanese Leporidae, the Amami rabbit Pentalagus furnessi, the Japanese hare Lepus brachyurus, and the mountain hare Lepus timidus, inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences

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We determined mitochondrial 12S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and cytochrome <i>b</i> (cyt <i>b</i>) gene sequences in three leporid species of Japan, the Amami rabbit <i>Pentalagus furnessi</i> from the Ryukyu Islands, the Japanese hare <i>Lepus brachyurus</i> from Honshu, and a Japanese form of the mountain hare <i>Lepus timidus ainu</i> from Hokkaido. We compared the sequences with those of other taxa of leporids available in databases. Phylogenetic trees of the 12S rRNA gene sequences indicated that the lineage of <i>P. furnessi</i> diversified during the generic radiation of the leporids at an ancient time, which was estimated to have been the middle Miocene. Cyt-<i>b</i> gene trees revealed that the lineage of <i>L. brachyurus</i> branched off at an early stage in the speciation of <i>Lepus</i>, probably at the beginning of the Pliocene. The cyt <i>b</i> sequences of <i>L. t. ainu</i> were somewhat distinct from those of continental conspecific populations; this lineage divergence is likely to have occurred during the middle or late Pleistocene. The results show that the three regions of the Japanese archipelago, Ryukyu, Honshu-Shikoku-Kyushu, and Hokkaido, now preserve their own leporid taxa, each with a different extent of genetic endemicity. It is possible that the zoogeographic traits of the Japanese leporids are a consequence of the evolutionary dynamics of leporids in East Asia, in that the radiation centers of leporids are likely to have shifted from tropical, through temperate, to arctic zones.<br>


  • Genes & Genetic Systems

    Genes & Genetic Systems 77(2), 107-116, 2002-04-01

    The Genetics Society of Japan

References:  57

Cited by:  7


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