Mitochondrial Genome Evolution, Genetic Diversity, and Population Structure in British Water Voles (Arvicola amphibius)

Corey Kirkland, Marta Farré* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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The European water vole (Arvicola amphibius) is a rodent within the subfamily Arvicolinae. In Britain, water voles have declined rapidly during the last century, making them a conservation priority. The relationship of Arvicola to other genera within Arvicolinae remains debated. Additionally, the impact that captive breeding programs in Britain are having on the genetic diversity of water voles is unknown. We use available mitochondrial genomes to construct the phylogeny of species within Arvicolinae, followed by sequencing the mitochondrial DNA control region of 17 individuals from a captive population of water voles in Britain to assess their genetic diversity and population structure. Our study first provides an updated phylogenetic tree of Arvicolinae using the mitochondrial genome of 31 species. Second, our results show considerable genetic diversity in the captive population of water voles, when compared with natural populations in Britain. We confirm the grouping of British water voles into two clades, with all captive individuals found in the English/Welsh clade. Moreover, captive water voles clustered closely with populations in the South East and East of England. The mitochondrial genome provides a useful marker to study the phylogenetics of this rodent clade and in addition, our study provides support for the breeding program at Wildwood Trust and provides a framework for future conservation genetics studies in this species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: The research was supported by the Kent Mammal Group (KMG).

Supplementary Materials: The following are available online at, Table S1: Arvicolinae and outgroup mitochondrial genome accession numbers, Table S2: Sequenced Wildwood Trust water vole samples, Table S3: Additional water vole sequences from previous publications, Figure S1: ML phylogenetic tree of all available mtDNA genomes for
Arvicolinae, Figure S2: ML phylogenetic tree of the 13 coding genes in the mitochondrial genome for Arvicolinae.


  • Arvicolinae
  • MtDNA
  • Phylogenetics
  • Population genetics
  • Water vole
  • population genetics
  • mtDNA
  • water vole
  • phylogenetics


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