New applications of genetic data to questions of historical biogeography have revolutionized our understanding of how organisms have come to occupy their present distributions. Phylogenetic methods in combination with divergence time estimation can reveal biogeographical centres of origin, differentiate between hypotheses of vicariance and dispersal, and reveal the directionality of dispersal events. Despite their power, however, phylogenetic methods can sometimes yield patterns that are compatible with multiple, equally well-supported biogeographical hypotheses. In such cases, additional approaches must be integrated to differentiate among conflicting dispersal hypotheses. Here, we use a synthetic approach that draws upon the analytical strengths of coalescent and population genetic methods to augment phylogenetic analyses in order to assess the biogeographical history of Madagascar's Triaenops bats (Chiroptera: Hipposideridae). Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequence data for Malagasy and east African Triaenops reveal a pattern that equally supports two competing hypotheses. While the phylogeny cannot determine whether Africa or Madagascar was the centre of origin for the species investigated, it serves as the essential backbone for the application of coalescent and population genetic methods. From the application of these methods, we conclude that a hypothesis of two independent but unidirectional dispersal events from Africa to Madagascar is best supported by the data.
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