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Colonization of the Philippines from Taiwan: a multi-locus test of the biogeographic and phylogenetic relationships of isolated populations of shrews

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Abstract Aim 

Colonization of the Philippines from Taiwan or neighbouring areas of the Asian mainland has been proposed as an important source of diversity for some plant and animal groups in the northern Philippines. Previous inferences, however, were based on taxonomic groupings, which sometimes fail to reflect phylogenetic history. Here, we test for colonization of the Philippines from the north in a group of shrews (Soricomorpha: Crocidura) using explicit inferences of evolutionary history. Location 

Southeast Asia. Methods 

We estimate the phylogenetic relationships of populations of shrews from Batan and Sabtang islands in the northern Philippines using DNA sequences from two mitochondrial genes and three nuclear loci. We employ topology tests to evaluate the possible relationships of these shrews to species from throughout Southeast Asia. Results 

We find conclusive evidence that shrews from Batan and Sabtang are closely related to Crocidura tanakae from Taiwan and additional specimens from the Asian mainland. Bayesian and frequentist topology tests using alignments of individual loci strongly reject any notion that shrews from Batan and Sabtang are part of the main Philippine radiation of Crocidura, indicating that the northernmost Philippine islands were almost certainly colonized by shrews from Taiwan or mainland Asia. Main conclusions 

Our results provide the first compelling evidence for colonization of the Philippine archipelago by a terrestrial vertebrate via a northern route. Invasion of the northern Philippines by shrews, however, did not lead to further range expansion to more southerly parts of the Philippines. This study, combined with previous results, documents that Crocidura colonized the Philippines at least three times. However, only one of these invasions led to in situ speciation and ubiquity across the archipelago. Our findings are part of a growing body of literature suggesting that oceanic archipelagos are often colonized multiple times by groups of closely related species, and occasionally from multiple sources.

Keywords: Batan island; Crocidura tanakae; Indochina; Philippines; Sabtang island; Soricomorpha; Taiwan; island biogeography; topology tests

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2010

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