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Revisiting the taxonomy of the Rattini tribe: a phylogeny-based delimitation of species boundaries

Author(s): Pagès Marie | Chaval Yannick | Herbreteau Vincent | Waengsothorn Surachit | Cosson Jean-François | Hugot Jean-Pierre | Morand Serge | Michaux Johan

Journal: BMC Evolutionary Biology
ISSN 1471-2148

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 184;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background Rodents are recognized as hosts for at least 60 zoonotic diseases and may represent a serious threat for human health. In the context of global environmental changes and increasing mobility of humans and animals, contacts between pathogens and potential animal hosts and vectors are modified, amplifying the risk of disease emergence. An accurate identification of each rodent at a specific level is needed in order to understand their implications in the transmission of diseases. Among the Muridae, the Rattini tribe encompasses 167 species inhabiting South East Asia, a hotspot of both biodiversity and emerging and re-emerging diseases. The region faces growing economical development that affects habitats, biodiversity and health. Rat species have been demonstrated as significant hosts of pathogens but are still difficult to recognize at a specific level using morphological criteria. DNA-barcoding methods appear as accurate tools for rat species identification but their use is hampered by the need of reliable identification of reference specimens. In this study, we explore and highlight the limits of the current taxonomy of the Rattini tribe. Results We used the DNA sequence information itself as the primary information source to establish group membership and estimate putative species boundaries. We sequenced two mitochondrial and one nuclear genes from 122 rat samples to perform phylogenetic reconstructions. The method of Pons and colleagues (2006) that determines, with no prior expectations, the locations of ancestral nodes defining putative species was then applied to our dataset. To give an appropriate name to each cluster recognized as a putative species, we reviewed information from the literature and obtained sequences from a museum holotype specimen following the ancient DNA criteria. Conclusions Using a recently developed methodology, this study succeeds in refining the taxonomy of one of the most difficult groups of mammals. Most of the species expected within the area were retrieved but new putative species limits were also indicated, in particular within Berylmys and Rattus genera, where future taxonomic studies should be directed. Our study lays the foundations to better investigate rodent-born diseases in South East Asia and illustrates the relevance of evolutionary studies for health and medical sciences.
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Tango Jona
Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona