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Late Pleistocene lineage divergence among populations of Neolitsea sericea (Lauraceae) across a deep sea‐barrier in the Ryukyu Islands

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Aim  Our goals were: (1) to assess the population genetic structure and demographic divergence history of a bird‐dispersed tree, Neolitsea sericea, endemic to East Asian land‐bridge islands; and (2) to interpret the results in the light of controversies over the dating and configurations of land bridges through the Japanese Ryukyu Island Arc.

Location  Japan–Ryukyu–Taiwan Island Arc and Chinese/Korean offshore islands.

Methods  We applied 10 nuclear microsatellites (nSSRs) and one chloroplast (cp) DNA sequence marker (psbA–trnH intergenic spacer) to 31 populations (397 and 326 individuals, respectively) from throughout the species’ range to infer current patterns of genetic diversity and structure, and pollen‐to‐seed migration ratios (r). A coalescent‐based isolation‐with‐migration (IM) model was applied to the combined nSSR/cpDNA data set to estimate lineage divergence times and population demographic parameters.

Results  The geographic structure of nSSRs and the distribution of most cpDNA haplotypes revealed two distinct lineages located in areas north and south of the ‘Tokara Gap’, a narrow (c. 37 km wide) but deep (> 1000 m) sea‐strait between the northern and central Ryukyus. Based on the IM analyses, we (1) dated the divergence of these northern and southern lineages to c. 0.07 Ma (90% highest posterior density interval: 0.02–0.38 Ma); (2) estimated a slightly smaller effective population size for the northern compared to the southern lineage; and (3) recovered only trivial signals of post‐divergence gene flow between them.

Main conclusions  The estimated divergence time for northern and southern lineages is consistent with geological evidence for the existence of land connections in the Tokara region during cold stages of the latest Pleistocene; it is thus incompatible with an ‘ancient sea‐barrier hypothesis’ for the Ryukyu Arc, where we would have expected much older divergences related to the initial formation of the Tokara and Kerama tectonic straits during the Pliocene. Multiple factors are likely to have had a role in the divergence of N. sericea, including not only land‐bridge submergence, but also island configuration, and/or constraints on adaptation along a latitudinal temperature gradient.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Organismic Biology, Salzburg University, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria 2: Herbarium (HAST), Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Nangang 115, Taiwan 3: Key Laboratory of Plant Resources Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650, China

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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