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Proc Biol Sci. May 22, 2000; 267(1447): 1033–1040.
PMCID: PMC1690639

Genetic evidence for the effect of a postglacial population expansion on the phylogeography of a North American songbird.


Phylogeographical studies of Nearctic songbirds conducted to date have yielded unexpectedly low levels of genetic differentiation and weak phylogeographical structure in mitochondrial DNA lineages as compared with species studied in Neotropical areas. Factors leading to this pattern may include (i) gene flow, (ii) population expansions from bottlenecked populations, and (iii) selective sweeps. Here we provide evidence for the role played by Pleistocene postglacial population expansions on the phylogeography of MacGillivray's warbler (Oporornis tolmiei), a long-distance migratory bird. Samples from 12 breeding localities in the temperate USA were compared with those from two localities in north-eastern Mexico. The former showed evidence of a Late Pleistocene population expansion as indicated by low haplotype and nucleotide diversity, a star-like phylogeny of alleles, and a mismatch distribution indicating a sudden increase in effective population size. By contrast, the Mexican population showed high levels of genetic diversity and a mismatch distribution as expected for a population unaffected by sudden demographic change. Haplotypes from the two regions formed two distinct phylogroups which separated roughly one million years ago according to a conventional molecular clock for songbirds. This study provides support for the Pleistocene expansion hypothesis in MacGillivray's warbler and suggests that postglacial expansion of bottlenecked populations is responsible for the lack of variation and structure reported for most North American songbird species.

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Selected References

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