Five significant records of rodents are reported from the Upper Pleistocene and Holocene of Slovenia. The identification of black rat Rattus rattus from the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age (ca. 1400–400 cal. BC) at Podjamca is thought to be one of the first records in Mediterranean Europe from the pre-Roman period. Evidence is also presented for the presence of Apodemus agrarius at Podjamca (at least 7800 y BP) and Suhadole (first half of the 1st century AD); the latter falls outside the current species range. The discovery of Dinaromys bogdanovi in Early Mesolithic layers (ca. 9600–7800 y BP) at Podjamca and of Late Mesolithic age (ca. 7800–6000 y BP) at Mala Triglavca are the first Holocene records outside the recent range of the species. Cricetulus migratorius (Podjamca, ca. 9600–7800 y BP; Mala Triglavca, 7800–6000 y BP) and Sicista subtilis (Divje babe I, ca. 80–75 ky BP) are reported for the first time in this part of Europe.
We explored the alpha and gamma patterns in species richness of non-volant small mammals on Mt. Snežnik (sea level: 1796 m) on the northern edge of the Mediterranean Basin. A total of 2871 individuals were sampled belonging to 23 different species of rodents and soricomorphs. Two estimates of true species richness (sample-based rarefaction and abundance-based coverage estimator of species richness, ACE) yielded very similar values to empirical data. The empirical number of species varied between 4 and 11 per station in alpha-richness and between 5 and 17 per 200 m elevational interval in gamma-richness. The 95% confidence intervals for ACE overlapped between elevations in both data sets, hence not a single sampling site or elevational interval emerged statistically richest or poorest in the number of species. The two patterns responded to elevation in a very different way but any of the curves was decidedly humped. The mid-domain effect predictions failed to reproduce the pattern of observed or estimated species richness, and hence the ranges were located non-randomly along the elevational gradient. The pattern of distribution and diversity is supposedly generated by the environmental variables correlated to the elevation, which vary in a non-random manner with elevation.
We explored patterns of size variation for mainland and island populations of Erinaceus roumanicus. Size was expressed either as the condylobasal length of the skull or as the first eigenvector obtained from a principal components analysis of a correlation matrix with four cranial variables. Both estimators were highly correlated. The pattern of size variation across Europe was a smooth cline, with the largest hedgehogs in the south. Furthermore, size correlated positively with temperature and negatively with summer precipitation. Regression model of the mainland hedgehog size against eight climatic variables significantly overestimated size in three out of four insular populations. Insular hedgehogs tended to be smaller on remote islands and larger on islands close to the coast, their putative source of colonization. We suggest that the major driving force determining size of mainland hedgehogs might be seasonality in resource availability. Size adjustment in island hedgehogs, however, was mainly concordant with the island rule which predicts convergence towards a size of approximately 100 g. The insular response was not uniform and large size close to the mainland is possibly a result of frequent introductions.
We addressed the species taxonomy of five-toed jerboas (Allactaga, subgenus Paralactaga) in the Middle East by applying molecular markers (cytochrome b and a partial 16S rRNA). The study consisted of 17 specimens from eight localities in the Middle East, representing both species: Allactaga euphratica and Allactaga williamsi. The phylogenetic reconstructions yielded three highly divergent lineages, which failed to conform to the recent taxonomy of Paralactaga. The first lineage (williamsi lineage) encompassed all the samples of A. williamsi from Turkey and Iran and also the specimens of A. euphratica from Lebanon. The haplotypes of A. euphratica were arranged into two lineages, which showed strong geographic associations. One lineage contained samples from Harran in Turkey and from Iran, while all the samples from Syria clustered in another lineage. The pairwise Kimura two-parameter values suggested similar divergences between the three lineages and were within the range reported for a sister species of rodents. Our results point to a cryptic species in A. euphratica and also provide evidence of the expanded range of A. williamsi further south to Lebanon.
We list over a hundred vernacular names for Cricetus cricetus, which are in use in English and in languages spoken within the distribution range of the species. These names belong to 36 languages (including three historical languages: Old Slavonic, Old Czech, Old High German) from nine linguistic groups: Slavic (13 spoken languages), Uralic (6), Turkic (4), German (3), Romanic (3), Romani (1), Iranian (1), Mongolic (1), and Chinese (1). The two currently most used names (Hamster, Cricetus) have roots in Slavic languages. “Hamster” and names related to it (Hamsterul, Homyak, Chomik, Komak) originate from the Old Slavonic “Homěstor”. “Skrzeczeck”/“Skreczecz” (Polish) is an example of onomatopoeia, an imitation of the hamster’s vocalization and is closely associated with various names in other Slavic languages (Skrečok, Křeč, Křeček, Chrček, Hrček, Hrčak, Gerčik), German (Grentsch, Krietsch), Romanian (Hârciog), and Hungarian (Hörcsög), and with the scientific tautonym Cricetus cricetus. Cricetus was first used by Albertus Magnus in the 13th century.
In the not too distant past the name Alticola roylei was used to encompass mountain voles which are currently classified as six different species. Such wide use of the taxonomic name still blurs the lines among species of mountain voles in northern India and adjacent Pakistan. By studying museum vouchers we redefine the taxonomic and geographical scope of A. roylei, a mountain vole which is characterized by a combination of dark (hair-brown) dorsal fur and moderately long tail, bowed zygomatic arches, small bullae, and moderately complex third upper molars. Two names (lahulius and cautus) are listed as junior synonyms of roylei. We identified 19 localities as evidence on the presence of Royle’s mountain vole in Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal in India. Further three localities extend the range into Nepal. The total area of the species’ occurrence is estimated as 15,290 km2. Royle’s mountain vole is allopatric with respect to further two mountain voles of Nepal and northern India, Alticola stoliczkanus (a single case of sympatry in Manaslu) and Aticola montosus.
Our aim in this study was to further the understanding of the taxonomic relationships and the evolutionary history of grey voles (subgenus Microtus, or arvalis species group) by establishing a cytochrome b (cytb) phylogeny with special emphasis on three species occupying Southwest Asia: Microtus mystacinus (levis is a synonym), Microtus obscurus and Microtus transcaspicus. Phylogenetic trees yielded a sister position of Microtus arvalis+M. obscurus against M. mystacinus while, M. transcaspicus emerged as their closest relative. Microtus ilaeus hold a basal position in the subgenus. The only sample from Afghanistan was classified into M. transcaspicus, therefore expanding the known geographic range for the species and questioning the presence of Microtus ilaeus in the country. Deep sub-structuring was typical of all the well-sampled species: M. mystacinus, M. obscurus and M. arvalis. Kimura 2-parameter (K2P) genetic divergence of 4.1% between the two main clades of M. mystacinus [the European (EU) and our new Iranian (IR)] was nearly identical to a distance (4.2%) between M. arvalis and M. obscurus, therefore suggesting undetected cryptic species in M. mystacinus. Our results reflect the importance of the Caspian-Altai zone for a speciation of the grey voles and of the Ponto-Caspian region for the intraspecific diversity of M. obscurus and M. mystacinus. M. arvalis is the only grey vole which diversified outside Asia.
We reviewed the available records on aberrantly coloured fat dormice Glis glis and are reporting on two recent cases of flavistic males. We identified five colour variants among nearly 11,000 dormice from throughout their range in Europe and Asia (of these 6174 from Slovenia and Croatia, and 3493 from the Czech Republic). Flavistic dormice come from Slovenia and Czechia (two cases each) while all the remaining colour variants were recorded in Slovenia between 1860 and 2012: melanistic (20 inds.), albino (7 inds.), isabellinus (4 inds.), and individuals with white tail stripes (five cases). The two flavistic individuals from Czechia were captured during a demographic study. Interestingly, the aberrant pelage was gained by both males later in life as in the years of first encounter they had the typical greyish coat colouration.
Bristly ground squirrels Xerini are a small rodent tribe of six extant species. Despite a dense fossil record the group was never diverse. Our phylogenetic reconstruction, based on the analysis of cytochrome b gene and including all known species of Xerini, confirms a deep divergence between the African taxa and the Asiatic Spermophilopsis. Genetic divergences among the African Xerini were of a comparable magnitude to those among genera of Holarctic ground squirrels in the subtribe Spermophilina. Evident disparity in criteria applied in delimitation of genera in Sciuridae induced us to recognize two genera formerly incorporated into Xerus. The resurrected genera (Euxerus and Geosciurus) are clearly distinct between each other and from Xerus in nucleotide sequences and in external, cranial and dental morphology. They occupy discrete ranges and show specific environmental adaptations. Atlantoxerus is more likely a sister to the remaining African genera than being nested inside them. We readdress nomenclatural issues associated with Xerini, list and reference all names above the species groups, and detail in words and figures those characters which differentiate the taxa. We propose Tenotis Rafinesque, 1817 (type species is Tenotis griseus Rafinesque, 1817), which is occasionally synonymized with Euxerus, as a not identifiable name (nomen dubium).