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Keywords:

  • biogeography;
  • divergence time;
  • Iguanidae;
  • Oplurinae

Abstract

Understanding the remarkably high species diversity and levels of endemism found among Madagascar’s flora and fauna has been the focus of many studies. One hypothesis that has received much attention proposes that Quaternary climate fluctuations spurred diversification. While spatial patterns of distribution and phylogenetic relationships can provide support for biogeographic predictions, temporal estimates of divergence are required to determine the fit of these geospatial patterns to climatic or biogeographic mechanisms. We use multilocus DNA sequence data to test whether divergence times among Malagasy iguanid lizards of the subfamily Oplurinae are compatible with a hypotheses of Pliocene–Pleistocene diversification. We estimate the oplurine species tree and associated divergence times under a relaxed-clock model. In addition, we examine the phylogeographic structure and population divergence times within two sister species of Oplurus primarily distributed in the north-west and south-west of Madagascar (Oplurus cuvieri and Oplurus cyclurus, respectively). We find that divergence events among oplurine lineages occurred in the Oligocene and Miocene and are thus far older and incompatible with the hypothesis that recent climate fluctuations are related to current species diversity. However, the timing of intraspecific divergences and spatial patterns of population genetic structure within O. cuvieri and O. cyclurus suggest a role for both intrinsic barriers and recent climate fluctuations at population-level divergences. Integrating information across spatial and temporal scales allows us to identify and better understand the mechanisms generating patterns diversity.