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Pleistocene climate fluctuations influence phylogeographical patterns in Melomys cervinipes across the mesic forests of eastern Australia

Authors

  • Litticia M. Bryant,

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Science and Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
    • Correspondence: Litticia M. Bryant, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane 4001, Australia.

      E-mail: litticia@hotmail.com

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  • Susan J. Fuller

    1. Faculty of Science and Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
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Abstract

Aim

Our aim was to clarify the lineage-level relationships for Melomys cervinipes and its close relatives and investigate whether the patterns of divergence observed for these wet-forest-restricted mammals may be associated with recognized biogeographical barriers.

Location

Mesic closed forest along the east coast of Australia, from north Queensland to mid-eastern New South Wales.

Methods

To enable rigorous phylogenetic reconstruction, divergence-date estimation and phylogeographical inference, we analysed DNA sequence and microsatellite data from 307 specimens across the complete distribution of M. cervinipes (45 localities).

Results

Three divergent genetic lineages were found within M. cervinipes, corresponding to geographically delineated northern, central and southern clades. Additionally, a fourth lineage, comprising M. rubicola and M. capensis, was identified and was most closely related to the northern M. cervinipes lineage. Secondary contact of the northern and central lineages was identified at one locality to the north of the Burdekin Gap.

Main conclusions

Contemporary processes of repeated habitat fragmentation and contraction, local extinction events and subsequent re-expansion across both small and large areas, coupled with the historical influence of the Brisbane Valley Barrier, the St Lawrence Gap and the Burdekin Gap, have contributed to the present phylogeographical structure within M. cervinipes. Our study highlights the need to sample close to the periphery of putative biogeographical barriers or risk missing vital phylogeographical information that may significantly alter the interpretation of biogeographical hypotheses.

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