The Eurasian field vole (Microtus agrestis) comprises three evolutionarily significant units (ESUs). The northern ESU is found at higher latitudes across the western Palaearctic region and includes six, largely allopatric, mitochondrial DNA lineages that were derived from population bottlenecks. One of these lineages is found in southern Britain and nearby areas of continental Europe. A prominent sub-lineage is nested within, and therefore derived from, the part of this lineage occupying southern Britain. The sub-lineage consists of an abundant central haplotype together with a series of closely related haplotypes, a distribution that would result from either a recent population bottleneck or a selective sweep. To distinguish between these, we sequenced a Y-chromosome marker in 167 field voles from Britain and Europe, and analysed a panel of 13 autosomal microsatellite loci in 144 field voles from eight populations in Britain. The Y-chromosome marker showed a continental-scale pattern of variation that was not aligned with that of the mitochondrial marker, while microsatellite variation did not show any evidence for a bottleneck, tentatively favouring selection instead. This implies a role for both stochastic and selective processes in generating phylogeographical patterns at different scales in the field vole.
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