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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2012 Jul;64(1):190-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2012.03.016. Epub 2012 Apr 2.

Using directed phylogenetic networks to retrace species dispersal history.

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Département des Sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM), Montréal, QC, Canada.


Methods designed for inferring phylogenetic trees have been widely applied to reconstruct biogeographic history. Because traditional phylogenetic methods used in biogeographic reconstruction are based on trees rather than networks, they follow the strict assumption in which dispersal among geographical units have occurred on the basis of single dispersal routes across regions and are, therefore, incapable of modelling multiple alternative dispersal scenarios. The goal of this study is to describe a new method that allows for retracing species dispersal by means of directed phylogenetic networks obtained using a horizontal gene transfer (HGT) detection method as well as to draw parallels between the processes of HGT and biogeographic reconstruction. In our case study, we reconstructed the biogeographic history of the postglacial dispersal of freshwater fishes in the Ontario province of Canada. This case study demonstrated the utility and robustness of the new method, indicating that the most important events were south-to-north dispersal patterns, as one would expect, with secondary faunal interchange among regions. Finally, we showed how our method can be used to explore additional questions regarding the commonalities in dispersal history patterns and phylogenetic similarities among species.

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