Speciation in the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis): a multilocus perspective

Authors

  • V. WOODY WALSTROM,

    1. Center for the Conservation of Biological Resources, Department of Biology, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD 57799, USA
    2. Integrative Genomics Program, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD 57799, USA
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  • JOHN KLICKA,

    1. Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV 89154, USA
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  • GARTH M. SPELLMAN

    1. Center for the Conservation of Biological Resources, Department of Biology, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD 57799, USA
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Veryl Woody Walstrom, Fax: (605) 642 6762; E-mail: verylwoody1@yahoo.com

Abstract

Inferring the evolutionary and ecological processes that have shaped contemporary species distributions using the geographic distribution of gene lineages is the principal goal of phylogeographic research. Researchers in the field have recognized that inferences made from a single gene, often mitochondrial, can be informative regarding the pattern of diversification but lack conclusive information regarding the evolutionary mechanisms that led to the observed patterns. Here, we use a multilocus (20 loci) data set to explore the evolutionary history of the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis). A previous single-locus study found S. carolinensis is comprised of four reciprocally monophyletic clades geographically restricted to the pine and oak forests of: (i) eastern North America, (ii) southern Rocky Mountain and Mexican Mountain ranges, (iii) Eastern Sierra Nevada and Northern Rocky Mountains and (iv) Pacific slope of North America. The diversification of the clades was attributed to the fragmentation of North American pine and oak woodlands in the Pliocene with subsequent divergences owing to the Pleistocene glacial cycles. Principal component, clustering and species tree analyses of the multilocus data resolved the same four groups or lineages found in the single-locus study. Coalescent analyses and hypothesis testing of nested isolation and migration models indicate that isolation and not gene flow has been the major evolutionary mechanism responsible for shaping genetic variation, and all the divergence events within S. carolinensis have occurred in response to the Pleistocene glacial cycles.

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