Recent postglacial range expansion drives the rapid diversification of a songbird lineage in the genus Junco

Borja Milá, John E McCormack, Gabriela Castañeda, Robert K Wayne, Thomas B Smith

Abstract

Pleistocene glacial cycles are thought to have played a major role in the diversification of temperate and boreal species of North American birds. Given that coalescence times between sister taxa typically range from 0.1 to 2.0 Myr, it has been assumed that diversification occurred as populations were isolated in refugia over long periods of time, probably spanning one to several full glacial cycles. In contrast, the rapid postglacial range expansions and recolonization of northern latitudes following glacial maxima have received less attention as potential promoters of speciation. Here we report a case of extremely rapid diversification in the songbird genus Junco as a result of a single continent-wide range expansion within the last 10 000 years. Molecular data from 264 juncos sampled throughout their range reveal that as the yellow-eyed junco (Junco phaeonotus) of Mesoamerica expanded northward following the last glacial maximum, it speciated into the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), which subsequently diversified itself into at least five markedly distinct and geographically structured morphotypes in the USA and Canada. Patterns of low genetic structure and diversity in mitochondrial DNA and amplified fragment length polymorphism loci found in dark-eyed juncos relative to Mesoamerican yellow-eyed juncos provide support for the hypothesis of an expansion from the south, followed by rapid diversification in the north. These results underscore the role of postglacial expansions in promoting diversification and speciation through a mechanism that represents an alternative to traditional modes of Pleistocene speciation.

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