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Geographic barriers and Pleistocene climate change shaped patterns of genetic variation in the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot

AuthorsMairal, Mario; Sanmartín, Isabel ; Herrero, Alberto; Pokorny, L.; Vargas, Pablo ; Aldasoro, J.J.; Alarcón, M.
Issue Date2017
PublisherNature Publishing Group
CitationScientific Reports 7 : 13 p. (2017)
AbstractThe Eastern African Afromontane forest is getting increased attention in conservation studies because of its high endemicity levels and shrinking geographic distribution. Phylogeographic studies have found evidence of high levels of genetic variation structured across the Great Rift System. Here, we use the epiphytic plant species Canarina eminii to explore causal explanations for this pattern. Phylogeographic analyses were undertaken using plastid regions and AFLP fragments. Population genetic analyses, Statistical Parsimony, and Bayesian methods were used to infer genetic diversity, genealogical relationships, structure, gene flow barriers, and the spatiotemporal evolution of populations. A strong phylogeographic structure was found, with two reciprocally monophyletic lineages on each side of the Great Rift System, high genetic exclusivity, and restricted gene flow among mountain ranges. We explain this pattern by topographic and ecological changes driven by geological rifting in Eastern Africa. Subsequent genetic structure is attributed to Pleistocene climatic changes, in which sky-islands acted as long-Term refuges and cradles of genetic diversity. Our study highlights the importance of climate change and geographic barriers associated with the African Rift System in shaping population genetic patterns, as well as the need to preserve the high levels of exclusive and critically endangered biodiversity harboured by current patches of the Afromontane forest.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1038/srep45749
issn: 2045-2322
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