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Evolution. 2005 Aug;59(8):1639-52.

Investigating the evolutionary history of the Pacific Northwest mesic forest ecosystem: hypothesis testing within a comparative phylogeographic framework.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow 83844-3051, USA.


We examine the evolution of mesic forest ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest of North America using a statistical phylogeography approach in four animal and two plant lineages. Three a priori hypotheses, which explain the disjunction in the mesic forest ecosystem with either recent dispersal or ancient vicariance, are tested with phylogenetic and coalescent methods. We find strong support in three amphibian lineages (Ascaphus spp., and Dicampton spp., and Plethodon vandykei and P. idahoensis) for deep divergence between coastal and inland populations, as predicted by the ancient vicariance hypothesis. Unlike the amphibians, the disjunction in other Pacific Northwest lineages is likely due to recent dispersal along a northern route. Topological and population divergence tests support the northern dispersal hypothesis in the water vole (Microtus richardsoni) and northern dispersal has some support in both the dusky willow (Salix melanopsis) and whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). These analyses demonstrate that genetic data sampled from across an ecosystem can provide insight into the evolution of ecological communities and suggest that the advantages of a statistical phylogeographic approach are most pronounced in comparisons across multiple taxa in a particular ecosystem. Genetic patterns in organisms as diverse as willows and salamanders can be used to test general regional hypotheses, providing a consistent metric for comparison among members of an ecosystem with disparate life-history traits.

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