J. L. Boone, Ph.D., Ecology
Boone, J. L. 1991. Taxonomic status of Peromyscus gossypinus anastasae (Anastasia Island cotton mouse). Peromyscus Newsletter, 11: 17.
Taxonomic status of Peromyscus gossypinus anastasae (Anastasia Island cotton mouse)

James L. Boone
Museum of Natural History, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602

Co-workers: Dr. Joshua Laerm and Dr. Michael H. Smith


ABSTRACT. (submitted to Journal of Mammalogy)

Four subspecies of cotton mice (Peromyscus gossypinus) were examined to assess the taxonomic validity of P. g. anastasae and the taxonomic affinity of the mice on Cumberland Island, Georgia. For genetic analysis, 44 loci in 379 mice from 14 populations (6 island, 8 mainland) were examined, and for morphometric analysis, 27 characters on 683 mice from 20 populations were examined. Polymorphic loci and heterozygosity per population averaged 40% and 10%, respectively, and there was no reduction of genetic variability on islands. Insular mice tended to be smaller than mainland mice. Every population was genetically and/or morphologically different from all other populations for at least one character in pairwise comparisons. However, when all populations were examined simultaneously, the pairwise differences were not significant. While each population was statistically distinct, none was unusually distinct, and neither the Cumberland Island nor Anastasia Island populations of P. g. anastasae warrant recognition as separate subspecies. [NOTE: further studies suggest that these subspecies do, in fact, warrent subspecific status.]

CONTINUING STUDIES OF PEROMYSCUS

The above paper deals strictly with the taxonomy of P. g. anastasae. My professors and I are continuing this taxonomic study and looking at the entire range of the species. We have found what appears to be an unusual distribution of genetic variance in this species, where adjacent populations are as different as some Peromyscus species, but there appears to be no geographic pattern to this variation. If this trend continues, these results would invalidate all of the current subspecies boundaries, but would not suggest new boundaries (other than to describe individual populations). We believe that we have also found temporal variation within sample sites, and we continue to examine this question. Of particular interest are the conservation and taxonomic implications of this dynamic distribution of genetic variance.

In an unrelated study, Dr. Laerm and I are attempting to develop a discriminant model to separate the four southeastern Peromyscus species using only cranial measurement data. If successful, this model will allow us to identify questionable and possibly misidentified specimens on our museum. Thus far, we have only been partially successful, in that we must use at least eight characters to reliable separate them. Contrary to our work, other authors have found this to be quite a simple problem; comments and suggestions would be appreciated.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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