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Recent demographic history of cactophilic Drosophila species can be related to Quaternary palaeoclimatic changes in South America

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The aim of this paper is to investigate the influence and extent of past climatic changes on South American biota. To this end, we establish phylogeographical hypotheses for a monophyletic group of four cactophilic species of Drosophila (the Drosophila serido haplogroup) found in xeromorphic vegetation in Brazil. The effects of Quaternary palaeoclimatic oscillations on the demographic fluctuations of our biological model and its sister group Drosophila antonietae are investigated.

Areas of eastern Brazil with open vegetation, including seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) areas and montane savannas, which are disjunctly distributed in eastern Brazil. We also analysed populations of sand dune vegetation from littoral areas in Brazil.

Nucleotide information from 630 bp of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene from 441 individuals was used to perform a series of statistical analyses to infer a phylogeographical hypothesis for each species and to date the divergence time between the D. serido and D. antonietae haplogroups.

All of the analysed species experienced population expansion during the Pleistocene, probably following the historical migratory routes that have been proposed for the expansion of SDTFs in Brazil. A bottleneck event in the Holocene was inferred for Drosophila seriema, probably due to ecological factors related to the geographical distribution of the host plant. The divergence time for the D. serido and D. antonietae haplogroups was calculated to have occurred during the early Pleistocene.
Main conclusions

Geographical and chronological evidence suggests that the major vicariant events between the D. serido and D. antonietae haplogroups, as well as the demographic fluctuations in each of the species within these lineages, could be related to the causal effects of Quaternary palaeoclimatic changes on the spatial dynamics of the SDTFs in Brazil.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2013

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