Aim The aim of this study was to assess the causal mechanisms underlying populational subdivision in Drosophila gouveai, a cactophilic species associated with xeric vegetation enclaves in eastern Brazil. A secondary aim was to investigate the genetic effects of Pleistocene climatic fluctuations on these environments.
Location Dry vegetation enclaves within the limits of the Cerrado domain in eastern Brazil.
Methods We determined the mitochondrial DNA haplotypes of 55 individuals (representing 12 populations) based on sequence data of a 483-bp fragment from the cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (COII) gene. Phylogenetic and coalescent analyses were used to test for the occurrence of demographic events and to infer the time of divergence amongst genetically independent groups.
Results Our analyses revealed the existence of two divergent subclades (G1 and G2) plus an introgressed clade restricted to the southernmost range of D. gouveai. Subclades G1 and G2 displayed genetic footprints of range expansion and segregated geographical distributions in south-eastern and some central highland regions, east and west of the Paraná River valley. Molecular dating indicated that the main demographic and diversification events occurred in the late to middle Pleistocene.
Main conclusions The phylogeographical and genetic patterns observed for D. gouveai in this study are consistent with changes in the distribution of dry vegetation in eastern Brazil. All of the estimates obtained by molecular dating indicate that range expansion and isolation pre-dated the Last Glacial Maximum, occurring during the late to middle Pleistocene, and were probably triggered by climatic changes during the Pleistocene. The current patchy geographical distribution and population subdivision in D. gouveai is apparently closely linked to these past events.