[en] Cricetinae ; cytochrome b ; hamster ; phylogeny ; von Willebrand factor ; 12S rRNA
[en] Despite some popularity of hamsters as pets and laboratory animals there is no reliable phylogeny of the subfamily Cricetinae available so far. Contradicting views exist not only about the actual number of species but also concerning the validity of several genera. We used partial DNA sequences of two mitochondrial (cytochrome b, 12S rRNA) and one partial nuclear gene (von Willebrand Factor exon 28) to provide a first gene tree of the Cricetinae based on 15 taxa comprising six genera: According to our data, Palaearctic hamsters fall into three distinct phylogenetic groups: Phodopits, Mesocricetus, and Cricetus-related species which evolved during the late Miocene about 7-12 MY ago. Surprisingly, the genus Phodopus, which was previously thought to have appeared during the Pleistocene, forms the oldest clade. The largest number of extant hamster genera is found in a group of Cricetus-related hamsters. The genus Cricetulus itself proved to be not truly monophyletic with Cricetulus migratorius appearing more closely related to Tscherskia, Cricetus, and Allocricetulus. We propose to place the species within a new monotypic genus. Molecular clock calculations are not always in line with the dating of fossil records. DNA based divergence time estimates as well as taxonomic relationships demand a reevaluation of morphological characters previously used to identify fossils and extant hamsters. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.