Rodents of the Caribbean: origin and diversification of hutias unravelled by next-generation museomics

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  • Pierre-Henri Fabre
  • Julia Thidamarth Vilstrup Mouatt
  • Maanasa Raghavan
  • Clio Der Sarkissian
  • Willerslev, Eske
  • Emmanuel J. P. Douzery
  • Ludovic Antoine Alexandre Orlando

The Capromyidae (hutias) are endemic rodents of the Caribbean and represent a model of dispersal for non-flying mammals in the Greater Antilles. This family has experienced severe extinctions during the Holocene and its phylogenetic affinities with respect to other caviomorph relatives are still debated as morphological and molecular data disagree. We used target enrichment and next-generation sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear genes to infer the phylogenetic relationships of hutias, estimate their divergence ages, and understand their mode of dispersal in the Greater Antilles.We found that Capromyidae are nested within Echimyidae (spiny rats) and should be considered a subfamily thereof. We estimated that the split between hutias and Atlantic Forest spiny rats occurred 16.5 (14.8–18.2) million years ago (Ma), which is more recent than the GAARlandia land bridge hypothesis (34–35 Ma). This would suggest that during the Early Miocene, an echimyid-like ancestor colonized the Greater Antilles from an eastern South American source population via rafting. The basal divergence of the Hispaniolan Plagiodontia provides further support for a vicariant separation between Hispaniolan and western islands (Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica) hutias. Recent divergences among these western hutias suggest Plio-Pleistocene dispersal waves associated with glacial cycles.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number7
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

ID: 128558914