Great Basin Naturalist


Spermophilus brunneus is restricted to a 90 × 125-km area of west central Idaho, with two distinct (northern and southern) groups of populations within this limited range. Morphological differences in pelage length and coloration, external and cranial measurements, and bacula suggest that these groups are either very distinct subspecies or species. We used starch-gel electrophoresis to estimate the amount of genetic differentiation accompanying these morphological differences by assaying genetic variation at 31 loci in the two geographic groups. Fifteen loci were polymorphic (13 in the northern group, 12 in the southern), and mean heterozygosity (H¯) was high (12.3% northern and 10.8% southern). Nei's genetic distance (0.057) is in the range usually associated with subspecific differences. However, Jaccard's association coefficient (0.893) is about the same as that found between several ground squirrel taxa currently recognized as species. The high levels of heterozygosity suggest that S. brunneus is a neoendemic rather than a paleoendemic species.