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Deep genealogies and the mid-peninsular seaway of Baja California

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Geological forces and long-term climate changes can have profound effects on species. Such effects may be manifested in the pattern and magnitude of genealogical diversity, as revealed by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineages. The relative importance of the different forces on a regional biota must be evaluated along with a good understanding of geological and climatological history. The peninsula of Baja California of north-western Mexico is one area where both geology and climate have affected the historical biogeography of the regional biota. Molecular studies based on the genealogical relationships among mtDNA lineages have contributed greatly towards elucidating the historical biogeography of Baja California. Perhaps most noticeably, numerous concordant breaks in mtDNA genealogies half-way along the peninsula suggest a vicariant history in which the mid-peninsula was temporarily submerged. This vicariant explanation has recently been criticized, as no conclusive geological evidence exists for a continuous submergence of the mid-peninsula. As an alternative, a scenario based on climatological factors has been suggested. Here we discuss the validity of the hypothesized mid-peninsular vicariance event and the climate-based alternative in explaining the concordant genealogical breaks. We argue that, despite the significant changes in climate brought about by the glacial cycles throughout the Quaternary, a vicariant history involving a mid-peninsular seaway remains the most parsimonious explanation of the observed patterns in mtDNA genealogies.

Keywords: Baja California; Gulf of California; climate; genealogical anchors; genealogies; geology; historical biogeography; mid-peninsular seaway; mitochondrial DNA; vicariance

Document Type: Guest Editorial


Publication date: 2006-08-01

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