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Notes on the distribution and phylogeography of two rare small Gerbillinae (Rodentia, Muridae) in Morocco: Gerbillus simoni and Gerbillus henleyi

Abstract : Even though Gerbillinae rodents represent an important part of the mammalian fauna in North Africa, many gaps remain in our understanding of the distribution, ecology, evolution, and systematics of some lesser known species in this family. We present in this study the most recent findings on two of these species. The first species, Gerbillus simoni Lataste, 1881, is a short-tailed, small gerbil, endemic to North Africa. In Morocco, it is present only in a small area in the northeast, where it has not been caught since 1970. In 2014, we captured a small gerbil in this region that was identified as G. simoni based on morphology and molecular data (cytochrome b gene sequencing). This study represents the first genetic characterization of G. simoni in Morocco and the first one outside Tunisia. Populations from Morocco and Tunisia (mainland and Kerkennah Islands) show very little genetic differentiation. The second species, Gerbillus henleyi de Winton, 1903, is a long-tailed small gerbil that lives in the Sahel and North Africa with an extension to the Middle East. In Morocco, this species was only known in the southwest. Between 2014 and 2015, we have captured four gerbils in the northeast of the country, which were confirmed genetically and morphologically as belonging to this species. This represents an extension of its known distribution of about 370 km to the northeast of the country. These new Moroccan specimens form a distinct lineage. High genetic diversity is observed throughout the geographic range of G. henleyi, suggesting the existence of several cryptic species.
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Oussama Bouarakia, Christiane Denys, Violaine Nicolas, Loubna Tifarouine, Touria Benazzou, et al.. Notes on the distribution and phylogeography of two rare small Gerbillinae (Rodentia, Muridae) in Morocco: Gerbillus simoni and Gerbillus henleyi. Comptes Rendus Biologies, Elsevier Masson, 2018, 341 (7-8), pp.398 - 409. ⟨10.1016/j.crvi.2018.08.001⟩. ⟨hal-01884580⟩

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