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Syst Biol. 2012 May;61(3):461-89. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syr130. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Multiple quaternary refugia in the eastern Guiana shield revealed by comparative phylogeography of 12 frog species.

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  • 1Molecular Ecology Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140 New Zealand. fouquet.antoine@gmail.com


The Guiana Shield (GS) is one of the most pristine regions of Amazonia and biologically one of the richest areas on Earth. How and when this massive diversity arose remains the subject of considerable debate. The prevailing hypothesis of Quaternary glacial refugia suggests that a part of the eastern GS, among other areas in Amazonia, served as stable forested refugia during periods of aridity. However, the recently proposed disturbance-vicariance hypothesis proposes that fluctuations in temperature on orbital timescales, with some associated aridity, have driven Neotropical diversification. The expectations of the temporal and spatial organization of biodiversity differ between these two hypotheses. Here, we compare the genetic structure of 12 leaf-litter inhabiting frog species from the GS lowlands using a combination of mitochondrial and nuclear sequences in an integrative analytical approach that includes phylogenetic reconstructions, molecular dating, and Geographic Information System methods. This comparative and integrated approach overcomes the well-known limitations of phylogeographic inference based on single species and single loci. All of the focal species exhibit distinct phylogeographic patterns highlighting taxon-specific historical distributions, ecological tolerances to climatic disturbance, and dispersal abilities. Nevertheless, all but one species exhibit a history of fragmentation/isolation within the eastern GS during the Quaternary with spatial and temporal concordance among species. The signature of isolation in northern French Guiana (FG) during the early Pleistocene is particularly clear. Approximate Bayesian Computation supports the synchrony of the divergence between northern FG and other GS lineages. Substructure observed throughout the GS suggests further Quaternary fragmentation and a role for rivers. Our findings support fragmentation of moist tropical forest in the eastern GS during this period when the refuge hypothesis would have the region serving as a contiguous wet-forest refuge.

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