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SUBFAMILY Gerbillinae

Author:Gray, 1825.
Citation:Ann. Philos., n.s., 10: 342.

Whether viewed as a subfamily of Cricetidae or Muridae (Alston, 1876; Carleton and Musser, 1984; Ellerman, 1941; McKenna and Bell, 1997; Miller and Gidley, 1918; Musser and Carleton, 1993; Simpson, 1945; Thomas, 1896) or a separate family (Chaline et al., 1977; Pavlinov et al., 1990, 1995a; Reig, 1980; Wessels, 1998, 1999), species of gerbils form a distinct group defined by a suite of derived morphological traits. In a series of reports, Pavlinov (1980a, 1981a, b, 1982a, 1984b, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2001) presented analyses of skeletal, dental, and male genital characters of gerbils and developed a hypothesis of their phylogeny and a classification. The monograph by Pavlinov et al. (1990) represents a culmination of these efforts, in which the phylogeny, species classification, morphology, ecology, and geographical distribution of the genera and species in Gerbillinae are comprehensively reviewed. They recognized the family Gerbillidae, with two subfamilies. Taterillinae contains tribes Taterillini (Tatera, Taterillus, and Gerbilliscus) and Gerbillurini (Gerbillurus and Desmodillus). Gerbillinae is composed of Gerbillini (Dipodillus, Gerbillus, Monodia, and Microdillus), Desmodilliscini (Desmodilliscus), Pachyuromyini (Pachyuromys), and Rhombomyini (Sekeetamys, Meriones, Brachiones, Psammomys, and Rhombomys). Pavlinov et al. (1990) were uncertain about the subfamily allocation of Ammodillini (Ammodillus). An excellent short review of character distribution within gerbils that is the basis for the classification of Pavlinov et al. (1990) was provided by Pavlinov (2001). We observe their subfamilies as tribes and their tribes as subtribes.

Cytogenetic data for the subfamily summarized by Qumsiyeh and Schlitter (1991) and Viegas-Péquignot et al. (1986). Rates of protein, chromosomal, and morphological evolution in four genera reported by Qumsiyeh and Chesser (1988). Chromosomal and biochemical results of several species and genera documented and discussed in a phylogenetic context by Benazzou et al. (1982a, b, 1984) and Qumsiyeh (1986). Problems in using Robertsonian rearrangements to determine monophyly were elaborated by Qumsiyeh et al. (1987) using species of Gerbilliscus and Gerbillurus. Other chromosomal reports significant to gerbilline systematics are those by Gamperl and Vistorin (1980), Ratomponirina et al. (1986, 1989), and the references cited in the various species accounts below. Anatomy, physiology, adaptive significance, and evolution of the middle and inner ear of gerbillines documented by Lay (1972) and Pavlinov (1988, 2001); significance of acoustic emissions and morphology of cochlea in context of adaptation and systematics reported by Bridelance (1987) and Plassmann et al. (1987); the relationship of acoustical adaptations in relation to steppe and desert environments summarized by Petter et al. (1984); and significance of the relation between size of pinna and auditory bulla elaborated by Pavlinov and Rogovin (2000). Breed (1995d) described spermatozoal morphology of Gerbilliscus leucogaster and Gerbillurus paeba, regarded them as highly derived and unlike the spermatozoa of other muroid genera, but drew no phylogenetic inferences. Comparative study of male genital morphology of species in 12 genera and its taxonomic significance documented by Pavlinov (1986).

The origin and evolution of North African gerbils discussed by Tong (1989) whose results were presented in a phylogenetic classification of genera and compared with other classifications based on morphological, chromosomal, and biochemical data. Pavlinov (2001) contrasted Tong’s view with the classification by Pavlinov et al. (1990) and pointed out disagreements. Cockrum and Setzer (1976) reviewed holotypes and type localities associated with North African species. Palearctic species reviewed by Corbet (1978c, 1984); Russian species checklisted by Pavlinov and Rossolimo (1987) and reviewed by Gromov and Erbajeva (1995). Eurasian species listed by Pavlinov et al. (1995a). Zoogeography (patterns of geographic distributions, correlation with bioclimates, definition of faunal categories, and historical origin of the fauna) of Moroccan gerbils presented by Aulagnier (1991). Patterns of geographic variation in relative importance of gerbillines across the "Great Palaearctic Desert Belt" using biogeographic and ecological approaches reviewed and quantified by Shenbrot and Krasnov (2001).

Morphology clearly defines Gerbillinae (Carleton and Musser, 1984; Pavlinov et al., 1990). Molecular data does also, and indicates that phylogenetic affinities of gerbils are with murines and deomyines. Analyses of the nuclear protein-coding gene LCAT sequences (Michaux and Catzeflis, 2000), and LCAT in combination with sequences of the von Willebrand Factor (Michaux et al., 2001) placed gerbils as a sister-group with deomyines, in a clade also containing murines. This topography is also consistent with results of analyses of complete mtDNA cytochrome b (Martin et al., 2000) and nuclear IRBP sequences (Jansa and Weksler, 2004); the Murinae-Gerbillinae link was also revealed by analyses of DNA sequences from the nuclear genes GHR and BRCA1 (Adkins et al., 2003). From their molecular-clock estimate, Michaux et al. (2001) suggested the three families diverged 20.8-17.9 million years ago, with deomyines and gerbils separating 18.5-16.5 million years ago, events transpiring in the early Miocene. Such divergence times are not unreasonable in context of known evolutionary history of these groups. The earliest gerbil fossils come from the late Miocene of Eurasia and North Africa (Wessels, 1998), and those of its sister-group, the myocricetodontines, extend back to the early Miocene of Turkey, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, middle Miocene of China and Africa, and Late Miocene of Spain (Jaeger, 1977a,b; Lindsay, 1994; Qiu, 2001; Wessels, 1996, 1998, 1999). Current consensus suggests the Gerbillinae to have evolved from myocricetodontines (de Bruijn and Whybrow, 1994; Jaeger, 1977b; Lindsay, 1994; Tong, 1989; Wessels, 1998), whether viewed as a family containing Gerbillinae (Wessels, 1996), a subfamily by itself (Tong and Jaeger, 1993) or within Gerbillidae (Ameur-Chehbeur, 1991; Tong, 1989; Wessels, 1998, 1999), or a tribe within Gerbillinae (McKenna and Bell, 1997). Tong and Jaeger (1993) would also derive murines from an early ancestral myocricetodontine with the split between the two groups occurring 16 million years ago. The earliest deomyines are represented by fossils of Acomys from the early Pliocene (Denys, 1990b); earlier deomyines or fossils actually linking deomyines with gerbils have yet to be discovered.

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GENUS Ammodillus

SPECIES imbellis

GENUS Brachiones

SPECIES przewalskii

GENUS Desmodilliscus

SPECIES braueri

GENUS Desmodillus

SPECIES auricularis

GENUS Dipodillus

SUBGENUS Dipodillus

SPECIES maghrebi

SPECIES simoni

SPECIES zakariai

SUBGENUS Petteromys

SPECIES bottai

SPECIES campestris

SPECIES dasyurus

SPECIES harwoodi

SPECIES jamesi


SPECIES mackilligini

SPECIES rupicola

SPECIES somalicus

SPECIES stigmonyx

GENUS Gerbilliscus

SUBGENUS Gerbilliscus

SPECIES boehmi



SPECIES brantsii

SPECIES guineae

SPECIES inclusus


SPECIES leucogaster

SPECIES nigricaudus

SPECIES phillipsi

SPECIES robustus

SPECIES validus

GENUS Gerbillurus

SUBGENUS Gerbillurus

SPECIES setzeri

SPECIES vallinus

SUBGENUS Paratatera

SPECIES tytonis

SUBGENUS Progerbillurus


GENUS Gerbillus

SPECIES burtoni

SPECIES mauritaniae

SUBGENUS Gerbillus

SPECIES acticola


SPECIES andersoni

SPECIES aquilus

SPECIES cheesmani

SPECIES dongolanus


SPECIES floweri

SPECIES gerbillus

SPECIES gleadowi

SPECIES hesperinus

SPECIES hoogstraali

SPECIES latastei

SPECIES nancillus

SPECIES nigeriae

SPECIES occiduus

SPECIES perpallidus

SPECIES pulvinatus

SPECIES pyramidum

SPECIES rosalinda

SPECIES tarabuli

SUBGENUS Hendecapleura

SPECIES amoenus

SPECIES brockmani

SPECIES famulus

SPECIES garamantis

SPECIES grobbeni

SPECIES henleyi

SPECIES mesopotamiae

SPECIES muriculus


SPECIES poecilops

SPECIES principulus

SPECIES pusillus

SPECIES syrticus


SPECIES watersi

GENUS Meriones


SPECIES tamariscinus

SUBGENUS Pallasiomys

SPECIES arimalius

SPECIES chengi

SPECIES crassus


SPECIES grandis

SPECIES libycus

SPECIES meridianus

SPECIES sacramenti


SPECIES tristrami

SPECIES unguiculatus

SPECIES vinogradovi

SPECIES zarudnyi

SUBGENUS Cheliones

SPECIES hurrianae

SUBGENUS Parameriones

SPECIES persicus


GENUS Microdillus


GENUS Pachyuromys

SPECIES duprasi

GENUS Psammomys

SPECIES obesus

SPECIES vexillaris

GENUS Rhombomys

SPECIES opimus

GENUS Sekeetamys

SPECIES calurus

GENUS Tatera

SPECIES indica

GENUS Taterillus

SPECIES arenarius

SPECIES congicus


SPECIES gracilis

SPECIES harringtoni

SPECIES lacustris

SPECIES petteri

SPECIES pygargus

SPECIES tranieri


    Ammodillini Pavlinov, 1981
    Desmodilliscina Pavlinov, 1982
    Gerbillina Gray, 1825
    Gerbillidae De Kay, 1842
    Gerbillinae Alston, 1876
    Gerbillina Pavlinov, 1982
    Gerbillini Pavlinov, 1982
    Gerbillurina Pavlinov, 1982
    Merionina Brandt, 1844
    Merionides Giebel, 1855
    Merionidinae Schmidtlein, 1893
    Merioninae Heptner, 1933
    Pachyuromyina Pavlinov, 1982
    Rhombomyinae Heptner, 1933
    Rhombomyini Pavlinov and Rossolimo, 1987
    Rhombomyina Pavlinov, Dubrovskii, Rossollimo, and Potapova, 1990
    Taterillinae Chalin, Mein and F. Petter, 1977
    Taterillina Pavlinov, 1982

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