Mastomys (Rodentia: Muridae) Species Distinguished by Hemoglobin Pattern Differences

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  • Division of Viral Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia 30333

Hemoglobin electrophoresis patterns were found to be reliable markers for distinguishing two species of Mastomys in Sierra Leone having 32 and 38 chromosomes. All 32-chromosome animals exhibited a single hemoglobin pattern, whereas those with 38-chromosomes had four distinguishable patterns. Both karyotypes were present throughout Sierra Leone. The 38-chromosome species was more prevalent in the Guinea savanna zone to the north, while the 32-chromosome species was most dominant in human-modified high forest areas of the eastern and southern parts of the country. In almost all situations the 32-chromosome species was more common in houses than in bush habitats; the reverse was true for Mastomys having 38 chromosomes. Analysis of hemoglobin patterns thus becomes useful for species identification, and is necessary to understand the roles of the different Mastomys forms as reservoirs of human diseases, such as Lassa fever in West Africa.

Author Notes

Present address: Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. 20560.

Present address: USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland 21701.