Reliable estimates of evolutionary rates of mitochondrial DNA might allow us to build realistic evolutionary scenarios covering broad time scales based on phylogenetic inferences. In the present study, we sought to obtain estimates of evolutionary rates in murine rodents using calibrations against historical biogeographic events. We first assumed that land-bridge-like structures that appeared intermittently at glacial maxima with 100,000-year intervals shaped the divergence patterns of cytochrome b (Cytb) sequences (1140 bp) of the larger Japanese wood mouse Apodemus speciosus. The comparison of sequences from peripheral remote islands that are separated from one another by deep straits allowed us to estimate mitochondrial DNA evolutionary rates (substitutions/site/million years) to be 0.027 to 0.036, with presumed calibrations from 140,000, 250,000, 350,000, and 440,000 years ago. Second, we addressed rapid expansion events inferred from analyses of the Cytb sequences of the lesser Japanese wood mouse A. argenteus. We detected five expansion signals in the dataset and established three categories based on the expansion parameter tau values: 3.9, 5.6–5.7, and 7.8–8.1. Considering that the climate became warmer 15,000, 53,000, and 115,000 years ago after preceding periods of rapid cooling, we calculated evolutionary rates to be 0.114, 0.047, and 0.031, respectively. This preliminary concept of the evolutionary rates on a time scale from 15,000 to 440,000 years ago for the wood mouse should be refined and tested in other species of murine rodents, including mice and rats.
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Vol. 34 • No. 3