Reconstructing the Pleistocene geography of the Aphelocoma jays (Corvidae)


A. Townsend Peterson, Natural History Museum, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045 USA. E-mail:


Understanding historical distributions of species and evolving lineages has been a topic of considerable interest, yet methods used to date have not provided detailed, quantitative distributional hypotheses. Here, we present a technique based on models of species’ ecological niches and Pleistocene climate reconstructions that provides such hypotheses, providing the example of reconstructions for the Aphelocoma jays. We demonstrate in general a greater degree than expected of stability in jay species’ distributional areas back through at least the most recent glaciation event, and that existing patterns of genetic differentiation may date to before the Late Pleistocene glaciations. More generally, the method offers the potential for reconstructing historical distributions of species or lineages, and providing a detailed geographic framework for addressing many biogeographic and systematic questions.