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Keywords:

  • coalescence;
  • colonization history;
  • Comoros;
  • D-loop;
  • gene flow;
  • Madagascar;
  • microsatellites;
  • Miniopterus

Abstract

Eocene ocean currents and prevailing winds correlate with over-water dispersals of terrestrial mammals from Africa to Madagascar. Since the Early Miocene (about 23 Ma), these currents flowed in the reverse direction, from the Indian Ocean towards Africa. The Comoro Islands are equidistant between Africa and Madagascar and support an endemic land vertebrate fauna that shares recent ancestry predominantly with Madagascar. We examined whether gene flow in two Miniopterus bat species endemic to the Comoros and Madagascar correlates with the direction of current winds, using uni- and bi-parentally inherited markers with different evolutionary rates. Coalescence-based analyses of mitochondrial matrilines support a Pleistocene (approximately 180 000 years ago) colonization event from Madagascar west to the Comoros (distance: 300 km) in the predicted direction. However, nuclear microsatellites show that more recent gene flow is restricted to a few individuals flying against the wind, from Grande Comore to Anjouan (distance: 80 km).