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Biogeographic Relationships of Pocket Gophers (Geomys breviceps and Geomys bursarius) in the Southeastern Portion of Their Ranges

Description: This research utilized population genetic analyses (protein starch-gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing of the cytochrome b mtDNA gene), host-parasite specificity (lice coevolution), remote sensing of satellite data, and geographic information systems (GIS) to characterize newly discovered populations of pocket gophers (genus: Geomys) in Arkansas. These populations are isolated and occur in seemingly unsuitable habitat in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Analyses of electrophoretic and ectoparasite data suggested the populations in the Ozark Mountains represented isolates allied to Geomys bursarius, a species not known to occur in Arkansas. Comparison of mitochondrial DNA sequence data of the cytochrome b gene with that of other taxa and morphometric analyses confirmed that these populations are most closely allied to G. bursarius occurring to the north in Missouri. Moreover, these mtDNA sequence analyses indicated a degree of differentiation typical of that between other subspecies of pocket gophers. Therefore, these populations represent a distinct genetic entity in an intermediate stage of speciation and should be designated as a new subspecies, Geomys bursarius ozarkensis. Molecular clock analysis revealed a time of lineage divergence for this new subspecies as approximately 511,000 YBP. Due to the isolated nature and limited distribution of this subspecies, an evaluation of critical habitat needs was initiated. Remote sensing and GIS technologies were used to identify and describe suitable habitat Computerized classification of satellite imagery of suitable vegetation, integrated with ancillary digital information on soil associations, roads, and water systems, revealed that human activity had played a positive role in the establishment and dispersal of pocket gophers in this area. This research represents an initial combination of classical systematic tools with remote sensing and GIS to investigate biogeographic patterns and evolution. This project establishes a framework for using an interdisciplinary approach to studying organisms with limited distributions, determining evolutionary status, and providing recommendations for ...
Date: August 1998
Creator: Elrod, Douglas Allen
Partner: UNT Libraries