Testing the effect of transient Plio-Pleistocene barriers in monsoonal Australo-Papua: did mangrove habitats maintain genetic connectivity in the Black Butcherbird?


Anna Kearns, Fax: +61 7 336 51655; E-mail: a.kearns@uq.edu.au


Changes in climate and sea level are hypothesized to have promoted the diversification of biota in monsoonal Australia and New Guinea by causing repeated range disjunctions and restricting gene flow between isolated populations. Using a multilocus (one mtDNA locus, five nuclear introns) phylogeographic approach, we test whether populations of the mangrove and rainforest restricted Black Butcherbird (Cracticus quoyi) have diverged across several geographic barriers defined a priori for this region. Phylogeographic structure and estimates of divergence times revealed Plio-Pleistocene divergences and long-term restricted gene flow of populations on either side of four major geographic barriers between and within Australia and New Guinea. Overall, our data are consistent with the hypothesis that mesic-adapted species did not disperse across the open dry woodlands and grasslands that dominated the transient palaeo-landbridges during the Plio-Pleistocene despite the presence of mangrove forests that might have acted as dispersal corridors for mesic-adapted species. Our study offers one of the first multilocus perspectives on the impact of changes in climate and sea level on the population history of widespread species with disjunct ranges in Australia and New Guinea.