Open Access Research article

A phylogenetic estimate for golden moles (Mammalia, Afrotheria, Chrysochloridae)

Robert J Asher1*, Sarita Maree23, Gary Bronner4, Nigel C Bennett2, Paulette Bloomer3, Paul Czechowski5, Matthias Meyer5 and Michael Hofreiter56

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

2 Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

3 Department of Genetics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

4 Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

5 Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

6 Department of Biology, University of York, York, UK

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:69  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-69

Published: 9 March 2010



Golden moles (Chrysochloridae) are small, subterranean, afrotherian mammals from South Africa and neighboring regions. Of the 21 species now recognized, some (e.g., Chrysochloris asiatica, Amblysomus hottentotus) are relatively common, whereas others (e.g., species of Chrysospalax, Cryptochloris, Neamblysomus) are rare and endangered. Here, we use a combined analysis of partial sequences of the nuclear GHR gene and morphological characters to derive a phylogeny of species in the family Chrysochloridae.


Although not all nodes of the combined analysis have high support values, the overall pattern of relationships obtained from different methods of phylogeny reconstruction allow us to make several recommendations regarding the current taxonomy of golden moles. We elevate Huetia to generic status to include the species leucorhinus and confirm the use of the Linnean binomial Carpitalpa arendsi, which belongs within Amblysominae along with Amblysomus and Neamblysomus. A second group, Chrysochlorinae, includes Chrysochloris, Cryptochloris, Huetia, Eremitalpa, Chrysospalax, and Calcochloris. Bayesian methods make chrysochlorines paraphyletic by placing the root within them, coinciding with root positions favored by a majority of randomly-generated outgroup taxa. Maximum Parsimony (MP) places the root either between chrysochlorines and amblysomines (with Chlorotalpa as sister taxon to amblysomines), or at Chlorotalpa, with the former two groups reconstructed as monophyletic in all optimal MP trees.


The inclusion of additional genetic loci for this clade is important to confirm our taxonomic results and resolve the chrysochlorid root. Nevertheless, our optimal topologies support a division of chrysochlorids into amblysomines and chrysochlorines, with Chlorotalpa intermediate between the two. Furthermore, evolution of the chrysochlorid malleus exhibits homoplasy. The elongate malleus has evolved just once in the Cryptochloris-Chrysochloris group; other changes in shape have occurred at multiple nodes, regardless of how the root is resolved.