Genetic consequences of interglacial isolation in a steppe bird

Gerard Bota and Anni Ponjoan will publish a new article – now is in press, although it is on-line available. This BAC lab’s members collaborate in the article with researchers from the UB, UAM, IREC and CEBC-CNRS.

The authors were based on the idea that “In response to climate changes that have occurred during Pleistocene glacial cycles, taxa associated to steppe vegetation might have followed a pattern of historical evolution in which isolation and fragmentation of populations occurred during the short interglacial and expansion events occurred during the long glacial periods, in contrast to the pattern described for temperate species.”

They use molecular genetic data to evaluate this idea in a steppe bird with Palaearctic distribution, the little bustard (Tetrax tetrax). Overall, extremely low genetic diversity and differentiation was observed among eight little bustard populations distributed in Spain and France. Mismatch distribution analyses showed that most little bustard populations expanded during cooling periods previous to, and just after, the last interglacial period (127,000–111,000 years before present), when steppe habitats were widespread across Europe. Coalescent- based methods suggested that glacial expansions have resulted in substantial admixture in Western Europe due to the existence of different interglacial refuges.

Their results are consistent with a model of evolution and genetic consequences of Pleistocene cycles with low between-population genetic differentiation as a result of short-term isolation periods during interglacial and long-term exchange during glacial periods.

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