Ancient geographical gaps and paleo-climate shape the Phylogeography of an endemic bird in the sky islands of Southern India
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:PLoS One, Public Library of Science, Volume 5, Number 10, p.e13321 (2010)
Background Sky islands, formed by the highest reaches of mountain tracts physically isolated from one another, represent one of the biodiversity-rich regions of the world. Comparative studies of geographically isolated populations on such islands can provide valuable insights into the biogeography and evolution of species on these islands. The Western Ghats mountains of southern India form a sky island system, where the relationship between the island structure and the evolution of its species remains virtually unknown despite a few population genetic studies. Methods and Principal Findings We investigated how ancient geographic gaps and glacial cycles have partitioned genetic variation in modern populations of a threatened endemic bird, the White-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx major, across the montane Shola forests on these islands and also inferred its evolutionary history. We used Bayesian and maximum likelihood-based phylogenetic and population-genetic analyses on data from three mitochondrial markers and one nuclear marker (totally 2594 bp) obtained from 33 White-bellied Shortwing individuals across five islands. Genetic differentiation between populations of the species correlated with the locations of deep valleys in the Western Ghats but not with geographical distance between these populations. All populations revealed demographic histories consistent with population founding and expansion during the Last Glacial Maximum. Given the level of genetic differentiation north and south of the Palghat Gap, we suggest that these populations be considered two different taxonomic species. Conclusions and Significance Our results show that the physiography and paleo-climate of this region historically resulted in multiple glacial refugia that may have subsequently driven the evolutionary history and current population structure of this bird. The first avian genetic study from this biodiversity hotspot, our results provide insights into processes that may have impacted the speciation and evolution of the endemic fauna of this region.
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