Comparative Phylogeography Highlights the Double-Edged Sword of Climate Change Faced by Arctic- and Alpine-Adapted Mammals



January 1, 2015


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Speciation (Biology)

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Hayley C. Lanier et al., « Comparative Phylogeography Highlights the Double-Edged Sword of Climate Change Faced by Arctic- and Alpine-Adapted Mammals », Open Research Library, ID : 10.1371/journal.pone.0118396


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Recent studies suggest that alpine and arctic organisms may have distinctly different phylogeographic histories from temperate or tropical taxa, with recent range contraction into interglacial refugia as opposed to post-glacial expansion out of refugia. We use a combination of phylogeographic inference, demographic reconstructions, and hierarchical Approximate Bayesian Computation to test for phylodemographic concordance among five species of alpine-adapted small mammals in eastern Beringia. These species (Collared Pikas, Hoary Marmots, Brown Lemmings, Arctic Ground Squirrels, and Singing Voles) vary in specificity to alpine and boreal-tundra habitat but share commonalities (e.g., cold tolerance and nunatak survival) that might result in concordant responses to Pleistocene glaciations. All five species contain a similar phylogeographic disjunction separating eastern and Beringian lineages, which we show to be the result of simultaneous divergence. Genetic diversity is similar within each haplogroup for each species, and there is no support for a post-Pleistocene population expansion in eastern lineages relative to those from Beringia. Bayesian skyline plots for four of the five species do not support Pleistocene population contraction. Brown Lemmings show evidence of late Quaternary demographic expansion without subsequent population decline. The Wrangell-St. Elias region of eastern Alaska appears to be an important zone of recent secondary contact for nearctic alpine mammals. Despite differences in natural history and ecology, similar phylogeographic histories are supported for all species, suggesting that these, and likely other, alpine- and arctic-adapted taxa are already experiencing population and/or range declines that are likely to synergistically accelerate in the face of rapid climate change. Climate change may therefore be acting as a double-edged sword that erodes genetic diversity within populations but promotes divergence and the generation of biodiversity.

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