Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Phylogeography


In contrast to the Western Palearctic and Nearctic biogeographic regions, the phylogeography of Eastern-Palearctic terrestrial vertebrates has received relatively little attention. In East Asia, tectonic events, along with Pleistocene climatic conditions, likely affected species distribution and diversity, especially through their impact on sea levels and the consequent opening and closing of land-bridges between Eurasia and the Japanese Archipelago. To better understand these effects, we sequenced mitochondrial and nuclear markers to determine phylogeographic patterns in East-Asian tree frogs, with a particular focus on the widespread H. japonica.

Concepts: Species, Europe, Japan, Asia, Phylogeography, Biogeography, Hylidae, Ecozones


SUMMARY Molecular phylogeography has revolutionised our ability to infer past biogeographic events from cross-sectional data on current parasite populations. In ecological parasitology, this approach has been used to address fundamental questions concerning host-parasite co-evolution and geographic patterns of spread, and has raised many technical issues and problems of interpretation. For applied parasitologists, the added complexity inherent in adding population genetic structure to perceived parasite distributions can sometimes seem to cloud rather than clarify approaches to control. In this paper, we use case studies firstly to illustrate the potential extent of cryptic diversity in parasite and parasitoid populations, secondly to consider how anthropogenic influences including movement of domestic animals affect the geographic distribution and host associations of parasite genotypes, and thirdly to explore the applied relevance of these processes to parasites of socio-economic importance. The contribution of phylogeographic approaches to deeper understanding of parasite biology in these cases is assessed. Thus, molecular data on the emerging parasites Angiostrongylus vasorum in dogs and wild canids, and the myiasis-causing flies Lucilia spp. in sheep and Cochliomyia hominovorax in humans, lead to clear implications for control efforts to limit global spread. Broader applications of molecular phylogeography to understanding parasite distributions in an era of rapid global change are also discussed.

Concepts: Genetics, Biology, Parasitism, Parasitoid, Phylogeography, Parasitology, Biogeography, Angiostrongylus vasorum


The genus Rivulus is currently comprised of two species, R. cylindraceus and R. insulaepinorum, which are endemic to Cuba. However, the taxonomic status of the latter species remains dubious because of the poor quality of the original description. In addition, a recent barcoding survey suggests that the two species may be conspecific. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the two species represent a single evolutionary clade. To delimit the species and their evolutionary history, we used a combination of molecular phylogenetic analyses, with both mitochondrial and nuclear sequences, tests of phylogeographic hypotheses, combined with morphological measurements and information on known dispersal barriers and species distribution. None of the data sets support R. insulaepinorum and R. cylindraceus as separate taxa. However, a new species, restricted to the northwestern part of the main island, was identified by phylogenetic analyses, body colour pattern and geographical distribution. The evolutionary distance between the two lineages (cytb, d = 15%; CAM-4, d = 2.5%) indicates a long period of divergence. Phylogeographic analyses shed light on the dispersal history of R. cylindraceus, which probably originated on the Isla de la Juventud. They also suggest that each lineage had contrasting histories; Rivulus sp. is restricted to a relatively small geographic area whereas R. cylindraceus has dispersed considerably and more than once from its centre of origin, probably facilitated by sea level fluctuations. These results strengthen previous findings, i.e. that the diversity of Cuban freshwater fishes is far from well-known and deserves more in-depth studies, and that vicariance and dispersal events have resulted in a complex biogeographical landscape which has had a significant impact on the freshwater fishes of the Caribbean islands.

Concepts: Evolution, Species, Ecology, Phylogenetics, Speciation, Allopatric speciation, Phylogeography, Biogeography


Delineating barriers to connectivity is important in marine reserve design as they describe the strength and number of connections among a reserve’s constituent parts, and ultimately help characterize the resilience of the system to perturbations at each node. Here we demonstrate the utility of multi-taxa phylogeography in the design of a system of marine protected areas within Fiji. Gathering mtDNA control region data from five species of coral reef fish in five genera and two families, we find a range of population structure patterns, from those experiencing little (Chrysiptera talboti, Halichoeres hortulanus, and Pomacentrus maafu), to moderate (Amphiprion barberi, Φ(st) = 0.14 and Amblyglyphidodon orbicularis Φ(st) = 0.05) barriers to dispersal. Furthermore estimates of gene flow over ecological time scales suggest species-specific, asymmetric migration among the regions within Fiji. The diversity among species-specific results underscores the limitations of generalizing from single-taxon studies, including the inability to differentiate between a species-specific result and a replication of concordant phylogeographic patterns, and suggests that greater taxonomic coverage results in greater resolution of community dynamics within Fiji. Our results indicate that the Fijian reefs should not be managed as a single unit, and that closely related species can express dramatically different levels of population connectivity.

Concepts: Species, Fish, Coral reef, Great Barrier Reef, Phylogeography, Biogeography, Pomacentridae, Marine Protected Area


In recent years, an increasing number of studies incorporated biogeography with phylogenetic analyses to reveal the origin and evolutionary history of specific floras. In this study, we constructed the mega-phylogeny of the floras of three representative regions across Yunnan, southwestern China. We analyzed the phylogenetic structure and beta diversity based on the presence/absence of species (genus or family) data to investigate the phylogenetic patterns of regional floras. We found conspicuous divergence at the genus and species level in the pattern of phylogenetic structures, which most likely related to historical biogeography. The flora of southern Yunnan was shaped by the strike-slip extrusion of Indochina and the regional climatic stability, while the flora of northwestern Yunnan was shaped by the uplift of the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau and the oscillations of the glacial-interglacial periods. The flora of central Yunnan had nearly equal proportions of the northern and southern floras that may be derived from a common Tertiary tropical or subtropical flora. Geological events fit well with the floristic and phylogenetic patterns across Yunnan. This study highlighted the importance of linking phylogenetic analyses to biogeographic interpretations to improve our understanding of the origin, evolution and divergence of regional floras.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Biology, Species, Ecology, Phylogeography, Biogeography, Phytogeography


Exon-capture studies have typically been restricted to relatively shallow phylogenetic scales due primarily to hybridisation constraints. Here, we present an exon-capture system for an entire class of marine invertebrates, the Ophiuroidea, built upon a phylogenetically diverse transcriptome foundation. The system captures ~90% of the 1552 exon target, across all major lineages of the quarter-billion year old extant crown group. Key features of our system are: 1) basing the target on an alignment of orthologous genes determined from 52 transcriptomes spanning the phylogenetic diversity and trimmed to remove anything difficult to capture, map or align, 2) use of multiple artificial representatives based on ancestral state reconstructions rather than exemplars to improve capture and mapping of the target, 3) mapping reads to a multi-reference alignment, and 4) using patterns of site polymorphism to distinguish among paralogy, polyploidy, allelic differences and sample contamination. The resulting data gives a well-resolved tree (currently standing at 417 samples, 275,352 sites, 91% data-complete) that will transform our understanding of ophiuroid evolution and biogeography.

Concepts: Gene, Allele, Evolution, Biology, Species, Phylogenetics, Extinction, Phylogeography


Phylowood is a web service that uses Javascript to generate in-browser animations of biogeographic and phylogeographic histories from annotated phylogenetic input. The animations are interactive, allowing the user to adjust spatial and temporal resolution, and highlight phylogenetic lineages of interest.

Concepts: World Wide Web, Web 2.0, Internet, Phylogeography, Web server, JSON


Understanding how geography, oceanography, and climate have ultimately shaped marine biodiversity requires aligning the distributions of genetic diversity across multiple taxa. Here, we examine phylogeographic partitions in the sea against a backdrop of biogeographic provinces defined by taxonomy, endemism, and species composition. The taxonomic identities used to define biogeographic provinces are routinely accompanied by diagnostic genetic differences between sister species, indicating interspecific concordance between biogeography and phylogeography. In cases where individual species are distributed across two or more biogeographic provinces, shifts in genotype frequencies often align with biogeographic boundaries, providing intraspecific concordance between biogeography and phylogeography. Here, we provide examples of comparative phylogeography from (i) tropical seas that host the highest marine biodiversity, (ii) temperate seas with high productivity but volatile coastlines, (iii) migratory marine fauna, and (iv) plankton that are the most abundant eukaryotes on earth. Tropical and temperate zones both show impacts of glacial cycles, the former primarily through changing sea levels, and the latter through coastal habitat disruption. The general concordance between biogeography and phylogeography indicates that the population-level genetic divergences observed between provinces are a starting point for macroevolutionary divergences between species. However, isolation between provinces does not account for all marine biodiversity; the remainder arises through alternative pathways, such as ecological speciation and parapatric (semiisolated) divergences within provinces and biodiversity hotspots.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Biology, Ecology, Oceanography, Ocean, Phylogeography, Biogeography


The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is one of only six bird species with an almost world-wide distribution. We aimed at clarifying its phylogeographic structure and elucidating its taxonomic status (as it is currently separated into four subspecies). We tested six biogeographical scenarios to explain how the species' distribution and differentiation took place in the past and how such a specialized raptor was able to colonize most of the globe.

Concepts: Evolution, Phylogenetics, Paleontology, Phylogeography, Biogeography, Bald Eagle, Falconiformes, Osprey


This study was conducted to determine the origin and phylogeography of four strains of Small East African (SEA) goat breed namely Pare, Gogo, Sonjo, and Sukuma.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Biology, Mitochondrion, Phylogenetics, Tanzania, Phylogeography, Capricornus