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PLoS Biol. 2004 Oct;2(10):e290. Epub 2004 Sep 7.

Genetic response to climatic change: insights from ancient DNA and phylochronology.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.


Understanding how climatic change impacts biological diversity is critical to conservation. Yet despite demonstrated effects of climatic perturbation on geographic ranges and population persistence, surprisingly little is known of the genetic response of species. Even less is known over ecologically long time scales pertinent to understanding the interplay between microevolution and environmental change. Here, we present a study of population variation by directly tracking genetic change and population size in two geographically widespread mammal species (Microtus montanus and Thomomys talpoides) during late-Holocene climatic change. We use ancient DNA to compare two independent estimates of population size (ecological and genetic) and corroborate our results with gene diversity and serial coalescent simulations. Our data and analyses indicate that, with population size decreasing at times of climatic change, some species will exhibit declining gene diversity as expected from simple population genetic models, whereas others will not. While our results could be consistent with selection, independent lines of evidence implicate differences in gene flow, which depends on the life history strategy of species.

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