Molecular and genic systematics of prairie dogs (genus: Cynomys)



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Texas Tech University


In the past, relationships of taxa of prairie dogs to each other and to other ground-dwelling squirrels were unclear. In this study I used a combination of genie analyses and restriction enzyme fragment patterns of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to analyze the various species and presumed subspecies of Cvnomvs. Outgroup taxa were examined to clarify relationships among these sciurid taxa. Results showed that prairie dogs fall into two distinct groups corresponding to currently recognized subgenera. Within Cvnomvs. five distinct species are recognized, but the subspeeific status of £.. aunnisoni zuniensis and C.. ludovicianus arizonensis is probably not warranted. Analyses also indicated a closer relationship between Cvnomvs and Spermophilus than with the other outgroup taxa. Finally, I present evidence that C.. leucurus may be the primitive taxon for the genus. The hypothesis that it hybridizes with C.. aunnisoni is likely false.