Phylogeography and population history of the least weasel (Mustela nivalis) in the Palearctic based on multilocus analysis

Takuma Sato, Alexei V. Abramov, Evgeniy G. Raichev, Pavel A. Kosintsev, Risto Väinölä, Takahiro Murakami, Yayoi Kaneko, Ryuichi Masuda

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5 Citations (Scopus)


The least weasel (Mustela nivalis) is one of the most widely distributed carnivorans. While previous studies have identified distinct western and eastern mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineages of the species in the western Palearctic, their broader distributions across the Palearctic have remained unknown. To address the broad-scale phylogeographical structure, we expanded the sampling to populations in Eastern Europe, the Urals, the Russian Far East, and Japan, and analyzed the mtDNA control region and cytochrome b, the final intron of the zinc finger protein on Y chromosome (ZFY), and the autosomal agouti signaling protein gene (ASIP). The mtDNA data analysis exposed the previous western lineage (Clade I) but poorly supported assemblage extending across Palearctic, whereas the previous eastern lineage (Clade II) was reconfirmed and limited in the south western part of the Palearctic. The ZFY phylogeny showed a distinctive split that corresponding to the mtDNA lineage split, although less phylogeographical structure was seen in the ASIP variation. Our data concur with the previous inference of the Black Sea–Caspian Sea area having an ancestral character. The Urals region harbored high mitochondrial diversity, with an estimated coalescent time of around 100,000 years, suggesting this could have been a cryptic refugium. Based on the coalescent-based demographic reconstructions, the expansion of Clade I across the Palearctic was remarkably rapid, while Clade II was relatively stable for a longer time. It seems that Clade II has maintained a constant population size in the temperate region, and the expansive Clade I represents adaptation to the cold regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-426
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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