Genetics, morphology and ecology reveal a cryptic pika lineage in the Sikkim Himalaya

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2017 Jan:106:55-60. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2016.09.015. Epub 2016 Sep 15.


Asian pika species are morphologically ∼similar and have overlapping ranges. This leads to uncertainty and species misidentification in the field. Phylogenetic analyses of such misidentified samples leads to taxonomic ambiguity. The ecology of many pika species remains understudied, particularly in the Himalaya, where sympatric species could be separated by elevation and/or substrate. We sampled, measured, and acquired genetic data from pikas in the Sikkim Himalaya. Our analyses revealed a cryptic lineage, Ochotona sikimaria, previously reported as a subspecies of O. thibetana. The results support the elevation of this lineage to the species level, as it is genetically divergent from O. thibetana, as well as sister species, O. cansus (endemic to central China) and O. curzoniae (endemic to the Tibetan plateau). The Sikkim lineage diverged from its sister species' about 1.7-0.8myrago, coincident with uplift events in the Himalaya. Our results add to the recent spate of cryptic diversity identified from the eastern Himalaya and highlight the need for further study within the Ochotonidae.

Keywords: Cryptic lineage; Himalaya; Ochotona; Phylogeny; Sikkim.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytochromes b / classification
  • Cytochromes b / genetics
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Lagomorpha / classification*
  • Lagomorpha / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sikkim


  • DNA
  • Cytochromes b

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.24jk4