The phylogenetic position of 'Acomyinae' (Rodentia, Mammalia) as sister group of a Murinae + Gerbillinae clade: evidence from the nuclear ribonuclease gene.
The phylogenetic relationships of Acomys and Uranomys within Muridae were investigated using nuclear pancreatic ribonuclease A gene sequences. The various kinds of substitutions in the data matrix (15 taxa x 375 nucleotides) were examined for saturation, in order to apply a weighted parsimony approach. Phylogenies were derived by maximum parsimony (weighted and unweighted) and maximum likelihood procedures, using a dormouse (Gliridae) as outgroup. Maximum likelihood gave the most robust results. All analyses cluster some traditional taxa with a strong robustness, such as three species of the genus Mus, two South-East Asian rats, and two genera in each of the gerbil and vole families. When analyzed with those of other murid rodents representing Murinae, Gerbillinae, Arvicolinae, Cricetinae, and Sigmodontinae, sequences of the ribonuclease gene suggest that Acomys and Uranomys constitute a monophyletic clade at the subfamily level, denoted "Acomyinae." The relationships between the six subfamilies of Muridae appear poorly resolved, except for a clade uniting Murinae, Acomyinae, and Gerbillinae. Within this clade, the sister group of Acomyinae could not be identified, as the branch length defining a Gerbillinae + Murinae cluster is extremely short. The poor resolution of our phylogenetic inferences is probably the result of two confounding factors, namely the limited size of the pancreatic ribonuclease sequence and the probable short time intervals during the radiation of the six murid subfamilies involved in this study.