• demography;
  • glaciations;
  • Iberian Peninsula;
  • latitudinal gradient;
  • North Africa;
  • phylogeography;
  • Podarcis;
  • population structure


Pleistocene climatic oscillations were a major force shaping genetic variability in many taxa. We analyse the relative effects of the ice ages across a latitudinal gradient in the Western Mediterranean region, testing two main predictions: (i) species with historical distributions in northern latitudes should have experienced greater loss of suitable habitat, resulting in higher extinction of historical lineages than species distributed in southern latitudes, where the effects of the ice ages were not as drastic. This would be reflected in the observation of lower diversity and number of differentiated lineages in northern areas. (ii) a signature of demographic expansion following the climate amelioration should be obvious in northern species, whereas in the south evidence of long-term effective population size stability should be observed. We used as models three species of wall lizards (Podarcis bocagei, Podarcis carbonelli and Podarcis vaucheri) that replace each other along the study area. We investigated the patterns of mitochondrial DNA diversity and subdivision and obtained demographic parameter estimates for each species. Our results suggest that P. bocagei, the northernmost species, bears low genetic diversity, a shallow coalescent history and marks of a demographic expansion. In contrast, P. vaucheri, the species with a southernmost distribution, shows deeper coalescence events, complex geographical substructure and no evidence for population growth. The species with an intermediate distribution, P. carbonelli, shows average levels of diversity, substructure and population growth. Taken together, these results conform to our main predictions and are explained by a differential influence of the ice ages on distinct latitudes.