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Keywords:

  • Corsica;
  • diversification;
  • Euproctus montanus ;
  • intra-island phylogeography;
  • Island biogeography;
  • Mediterranean basin

Abstract

Islands are hotspots of biodiversity, with a disproportionately high fraction of endemic lineages, often of ancient origin. Nevertheless, intra-island phylogeographies are surprisingly scarce, leading to a scanty knowledge about the microevolutionary processes induced on island populations by Plio-Pleistocene climatic oscillations, and the manner in which these processes contributed to shape their current genetic diversity. We investigated the phylogeography, historical demography and species distribution models of the Corsican endemic newt Euproctus montanus (north-western Mediterranean). As for many island endemics, the continuous distribution of E. montanus throughout its range has hitherto been considered as evidence for a single large population, a belief that also guided the species' categorization for conservation purposes. Instead, we found a geographic mosaic of ancient evolutionary lineages, with five main clades of likely Pliocene origin (2.6–5.8 My), all but one restricted to northern Corsica. Moreover, the copresence between main lineages in the same population was limited to a single case. As also suggested by growing literature on intra-island phylogeographic variation, it seems that the extensive use of simplifying assumption on the population structure and historical demography of island populations—both in theoretical and applicative studies—should be carefully reconsidered, a claim that is well exemplified by the case presented here.