Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Biology (MS)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Kurt Galbreath


Ecological disruption plays an important role in structuring diversity of flora, fauna, and their parasites. At the end of the Eocene, climatic change across Asia resulted in a faunal turnover (the Mongolian Remodeling) as rodents diversified and larger mammals declined. Throughout the Oligocene, the landscape in Asia was characterized by episodic climatic and landscape changes resulting in pulses of rodent diversification. The role of historical ecological disruption in Central Asia in structuring the diversity of parasites of small rodents has not been thoroughly investigated. The hyper-diverse Paranoplocephala species complex (family: Anoplocephalidae) infect rodents throughout the Holarctic and present an opportunity to investigate the consequences of ecological disruption on the diversity of parasites. Here, I use whole mitogenome sequencing to produce a well-resolved phylogeny showing relationships within the Paranoplocephala species complex. I test the hypotheses that the Mongolian Remodeling initiated diversification and subsequent recurrent episodes of climatic change increased the tempo of diversification within this parasite assemblage. Using mitochondrial genome sequencing, I built the most robust phylogenetic tree of seven known species and eight previously unknown lineages. A clock calibration estimate put the temporal origin of the Paranoplocephala species complex approximately 42 MYA and lineage through time tests showed more diversification occurred in deeper time. Results indicated multiple trans-Beringian dispersal events and numerous host-colonization events, consistent with ecological disruption playing an important role in structuring parasite diversity.

Access Type

Open Access