Demographic stability and high historical connectivity explain the diversity of a savanna tree species in the Quaternary

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Abstract

Background and Aims

Cyclic glaciations were frequent throughout the Quaternary and this affected species distribution and population differentiation worldwide. The present study reconstructed the demographic history and dispersal routes of Eugenia dysenterica lineages and investigated the effects of Quaternary climate change on its spatial pattern of genetic diversity.

Methods

A total of 333 individuals were sampled from 23 populations and analysed by sequencing four regions of the chloroplast DNA and the internal transcribed spacer of the nuclear DNA. The analyses were performed using a multi-model inference approach based on ecological niche modelling and statistical phylogeography.

Key Results

Coalescent simulation showed that population stability through time is the most likely scenario. The palaeodistribution dynamics predicted by the ecological niche models revealed that the species was potentially distributed across a large area, extending over Central-Western Brazil through the last glaciation. The lineages of E. dysenterica dispersed from Central Brazil towards populations at the northern, western and south-eastern regions. A historical refugium through time may have favoured lineage dispersal and the maintenance of genetic diversity.

Conclusions

The results suggest that the central region of the Cerrado biome is probably the centre of distribution of E. dysenterica and that the spatial pattern of its genetic diversity may be the outcome of population stability throughout the Quaternary. The lower genetic diversity in populations in the south-eastern Cerrado biome is probably due to local climatic instability during the Quaternary.

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