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Isolation and introgression in the Intermountain West: contrasting gene genealogies reveal the complex biogeographic history of the American pika (Ochotona princeps)


Kurt Galbreath, Department of Biology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225, USA.


Aim  We studied the history of colonization, diversification and introgression among major phylogroups in the American pika, Ochotona princeps (Lagomorpha), using comparative and statistical phylogeographic methods. Our goal was to understand how Pleistocene climatic fluctuations have shaped the distribution of diversity at mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear DNA (nDNA) loci in this alpine specialist.

Location  North America’s Intermountain West.

Methods  We accumulated mtDNA sequence data (c. 560–1700 bp) from 232 pikas representing 64 localities, and sequenced two nuclear introns (mast cell growth factor, c. 550 bp, = 148; protein kinase C iota, c. 660 bp, = 139) from a subset of individuals. To determine the distribution of major mtDNA lineages, we conducted a phylogenetic analysis on the mtDNA sequence data, and we calculated divergence times among the lineages using a Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo approach. Relationships among nuclear alleles were explored with minimum spanning networks. Finally, we conducted coalescent simulations of alternative models of population history to test for congruence between nDNA and mtDNA responses to Pleistocene glacial cycles.

Results  We found that: (1) all individuals could be assigned to one of five allopatric mtDNA lineages; (2) lineages are associated with separate mountain provinces; (3) lineages originated from at least two rounds of differentiation; (4) nDNA and mtDNA markers exhibited overall phylogeographic congruence; and (5) introgression among phylogroups has occurred at nuclear loci since their initial isolation.

Main conclusions  Pika populations associated with different mountain systems have followed separate but not completely independent evolutionary trajectories through multiple glacial cycles. Range expansion associated with climate cooling (i.e. glaciations) promoted genetic admixture among populations within mountain ranges. It also permitted periodic contact and introgression between phylogroups associated with different mountain systems, the record of which is retained at nDNA but not mtDNA loci. Evidence for different histories at nuclear and mtDNA loci (i.e. periodic introgression versus deep isolation, respectively) emphasizes the importance of multilocus perspectives for reconstructing complete population histories.