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Temporal, spatial and ecological dynamics of speciation among amphi‐Beringian small mammals

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Quaternary climate cycles played an important role in promoting diversification across the Northern Hemisphere, although details of the mechanisms driving evolutionary change are still poorly resolved. In a comparative phylogeographical framework, we investigate temporal, spatial and ecological components of evolution within a suite of Holarctic small mammals. We test a hypothesis of simultaneous divergence among multiple taxon pairs, investigating time to coalescence and demographic change for each taxon in response to a combination of climate and geography.

Beringia, the nexus of the northern continents.

We used approximate Bayesian computation methods to test for simultaneous divergence among eight pairs of taxa, using cytochrome b gene sequences. We calculated coalescence times for eastern and western components of each pair and for the combined pairs, and relate dates to Quaternary climatic periodicity and combinations of environmental events and physical barriers. Population growth and expansion statistics were used to test evolutionary responses among taxa, including range shifts, persistence or periodic extirpation. Species distribution models (SDMs) for each taxon were used to predict their geographical ranges during the present interglacial, Last Glacial Maximum and previous interglacial.

Multiple divergence events across Beringia were primarily coincident with extreme glacial cycles of the late Quaternary. Structure within Beringia is spatially consistent with at least three environmental barriers arising at different times: the Kolyma Uplands, Bering Strait and portions of the Bering Isthmus. Levels of divergence varied substantially, indicating evolutionary processes spanning deep and shallow time‐scales. The different demographics among taxa reflect their distinct ecological responses. SDMs predicted regional distributional changes through time and different spatial responses among taxa.
Main conclusions

Beringia predominantly constituted a dispersal corridor during the early Quaternary and a major centre of endemism in the late Quaternary. Coincident with severe glacial cycles, small mammal species were ‘caught’ in Beringia and diversified over multiple climatic phases. Relative genetic differentiation across Beringia appears to be related to ecological differences reflecting a gradual adaptation to Beringian environments through time. Some methodological constraints associated with resolving recent (late Quaternary) isolation events or drawing inferences from a single locus are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-03-01

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