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Mapping the evolutionary twilight zone: molecular markers, populations and geography

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Since evolutionary processes, such as dispersal, adaptation and drift, occur in a geographical context, at multiple hierarchical levels, biogeography provides a central and important unifying framework for understanding the patterns of distribution of life on Earth. However, the advent of molecular markers has allowed a clearer evaluation of the relationships between microevolutionary processes and patterns of genetic divergence among populations in geographical space, triggering the rapid development of many research programmes. Here we provide an overview of the interpretation of patterns of genetic diversity in geographical and ecological space, using both implicit and explicit spatial approaches. We discuss the actual or potential interaction of phylogeography, molecular ecology, ecological genetics, geographical genetics, landscape genetics and conservation genetics with biogeography, identifying their respective roles and their ability to deal with ecological and evolutionary processes at different levels of the biological hierarchy. We also discuss how each of these research programmes can improve strategies for biodiversity conservation. A unification of these research programmes is needed to better achieve their goals, and to do this it is important to develop cross-disciplinary communication and collaborations among geneticists, ecologists, biogeographers and spatial statisticians.
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Keywords: Biogeography; conservation biogeography; conservation genetics; geographical genetics; landscape genetics; molecular ecology; molecular markers; phylogeography; population structure

Document Type: Guest Editorial

Affiliations: 1: Laboratório de Genética & Biodiversidade, Departamento de Zootecnia, MCAS/MGENE, Universidade Católica de Goiás, Goiânia, GO 2: Faculdade de Biociências, PUCRS, Av. Ipiranga 6681, Prédio 12. 90619-900, Porto Alegre 3: Departamento de Genética, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Caixa Postal 15053, 91501-970 Porto Alegre, RS 4: Departamento de Biologia Geral, ICB, Universidade Federal de Goiás. Cx.P. 131, 74.001-970 Goiânia 5: Departamento de Biologia Geral, ICB, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, MG 6: Laboratório de Biodiversidade Molecular, Departamento de Genética, Instituto de Biologia, UFRJ, Ilha do Fundão, 21941-490, Rio de Janeiro, RJ

Publication date: 01 May 2008

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