Martes species represent a typical example of rapid evolutionary radiation and a recent speciation event. To identify regions of the genome that experienced adaptive evolution, which might provide clues to their functional importance and may be informative about the features that make each species unique, we sought evidence of molecular adaptation in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b gene in the subgenus Martes.
Mitochondria play a crucial role in energy metabolism through oxidative phosphorylation. Organisms living at high altitudes are potentially influenced by oxygen deficits and cold temperatures. The severe environmental conditions can impact on metabolism and direct selection of mitochondrial DNA. As a wide-ranging animal, the domestic horse (Equus caballus) has developed various morphological and physiological characteristics for adapting to different altitudes. Thus, this is a good species for studying adaption to high altitudes at a molecular level.