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Am Nat. 2005 Nov;166(5):581-91. Epub 2005 Aug 30.

Clustering of contact zones, hybrid zones, and phylogeographic breaks in North America.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


A recent test for the existence of suture zones in North America, based on hybrid zones studied since 1970, found support for only two of the 13 suture zones identified by Remington in 1968 (Swenson and Howard 2004). One limitation of that recent study was the relatively small number of hybrid zones available for mapping. In this study, we search for evidence of clustering of contact zones between closely related taxa using data not only from hybrid zones but from species range maps of trees, birds, and mammals and from the position of phylogeographic breaks within species. Digital geographic range maps and a geographic information system approach allowed for accurate and rapid mapping of distributional data. Areas of contact between closely related species and phylogeographic breaks within species clustered into areas characterized by common physiographic features or predicted by previously hypothesized glacial refugia. The results underscore the general importance of geographic barriers to dispersal (mountain chains) and climate change (periods of cooling alternating with periods of warming, which lead to the contraction and expansion of species ranges) in species evolution.

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