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Evolution. 2004 Aug;58(8):1664-73.

Application of Johnson et al.'s speciation threshold model to apparent colonization times of island biotas.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Missouri-St Louis, St Louis, Missouri 63121-4499, USA.


Understanding patterns of diversity can be furthered by analysis of the dynamics of colonization, speciation, and extinction on islands using historical information provided by molecular phylogeography. The land birds of the Lesser Antilles are one of the most thoroughly described regional faunas in this context. In an analysis of colonization times, Ricklefs and Bermingham (2001) found that the cumulative distribution of lineages with respect to increasing time since colonization exhibits a striking change in slope at a genetic distance of about 2% mitochondrial DNA sequence divergence (about one million years). They further showed how this heterogeneity could be explained by either an abrupt increase in colonization rates or a mass extinction event. Cherry et al. (2002), referring to a model developed by Johnson et al. (2000), argued instead that the pattern resulted from a speciation threshold for reproductive isolation of island populations from their continental source populations. Prior to this threshold, genetic divergence is slowed by migration from the source, and species of varying age accumulate at a low genetic distance. After the threshold is reached, source and island populations diverge more rapidly, creating heterogeneity in the distribution of apparent ages of island taxa. We simulated of Johnson et al.'s speciation-threshold model, incorporating genetic divergence at rate k and fixation at rate M of genes that have migrated between the source and the island population. Fixation resets the divergence clock to zero. The speciation-threshold model fits the distribution of divergence times of Lesser Antillean birds well with biologically plausible parameter estimates. Application of the model to the Hawaiian avifauna, which does not exhibit marked heterogeneity of genetic divergence, and the West Indian herpetofauna, which does, required unreasonably high migration-fixation rates, several orders of magnitude greater than the colonization rate. However, the plausibility of the speciation-divergence model for Lesser Antillean birds emphasizes the importance of further investigation of historical biogeography on a regional scale for whole biotas, as well as the migration of genes between populations on long time scales and the achievement of reproductive isolation.

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