Cytochrome b phylogeography of chamois (Rupicapra spp.). Population contractions, expansions and hybridizations governed the diversification of the genus

J Hered. Jan-Feb 2009;100(1):47-55. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esn074. Epub 2008 Sep 15.


The chamois provides an excellent model for exploring the effect of historical and evolutionary events on diversification. We investigate cytochrome b (cytb) sequences in the 10 recognized subspecies of Rupicapra classified within 2 species: Rupicapra pyrenaica, with the subspecies parva, pyrenaica, and ornata, and Rupicapra rupicapra, with cartusiana, rupicapra, tatrica, carpatica, balcanica, asiatica, and caucasica. A fragment of 349 bp of the cytb was sequenced in 189 individuals. We identified 3 cytb lineages: Clade West in Iberia and Western Alps; Clade Central in the Apennines and the Massif of Chartreuse; and Clade East present in populations to the east of the Alps. The 2 proposed species were polyphyletic; the clades West and Central are represented in both, whereas the Clade East is restricted to R. rupicapra. In contrast to the current systematic, cytb phylogenies suggest the classification of the 10 subspecies of chamois into a single species, R. rupicapra. Phylogeny and geographical distribution of the 3 lineages show the effects of limited latitudinal range expansions, contractions, and hybridizations among highly divergent lineages, along with a major role of the glacial ice sheets of the Alps and the Pyrenees as barriers to gene flow, on the diversification of extant taxa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytochromes b / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Flow
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Geography
  • Hybridization, Genetic / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Rupicapra / classification
  • Rupicapra / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Cytochromes b