Multilocus phylogeny and cryptic diversity in Asian shrew-like moles (Uropsilus, Talpidae): implications for taxonomy and conservation
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Abstract Background The genus Uropsilus comprises a group of terrestrial, montane mammals endemic to the Hengduan and adjacent mountains. These animals are the most primitive living talpids. The taxonomy has been primarily based on cursory morphological comparisons and the evolutionary affinities are little known. To provide insight into the systematics of this group, we estimated the first multi-locus phylogeny and conducted species delimitation, including taxon sampling throughout their distribution range. Results We obtained two mitochondrial genes (~1, 985 bp) and eight nuclear genes (~4, 345 bp) from 56 specimens. Ten distinct evolutionary lineages were recovered from the three recognized species, eight of which were recognized as species/putative species. Five of these putative species were found to be masquerading as the gracile shrew mole. The divergence time estimation results indicated that climate change since the last Miocene and the uplift of the Himalayas may have resulted in the diversification and speciation of Uropsilus. Conclusions The cryptic diversity found in this study indicated that the number of species is strongly underestimated under the current taxonomy. Two synonyms of gracilis (atronates and nivatus) should be given full species status, and the taxonomic status of another three potential species should be evaluated using extensive taxon sampling, comprehensive morphological, and morphometric approaches. Consequently, the conservation status of Uropsilus spp. should also be re-evaluated, as most of the species/potential species have very limited distribution.