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. 2011 Jun 14;11:163.
doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-11-163.

Palaeoclimatic Events, Dispersal and Migratory Losses Along the Afro-European Axis as Drivers of Biogeographic Distribution in Sylvia Warblers

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Palaeoclimatic Events, Dispersal and Migratory Losses Along the Afro-European Axis as Drivers of Biogeographic Distribution in Sylvia Warblers

Gary Voelker et al. BMC Evol Biol. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Background: The Old World warbler genus Sylvia has been used extensively as a model system in a variety of ecological, genetic, and morphological studies. The genus is comprised of about 25 species, and 70% of these species have distributions at or near the Mediterranean Sea. This distribution pattern suggests a possible role for the Messinian Salinity Crisis (from 5.96-5.33 Ma) as a driving force in lineage diversification. Other species distributions suggest that Late Miocene to Pliocene Afro-tropical forest dynamics have also been important in the evolution of Sylvia lineages. Using a molecular phylogenetic hypothesis and other methods, we seek to develop a biogeographic hypothesis for Sylvia and to explicitly assess the roles of these climate-driven events.

Results: We present the first strongly supported molecular phylogeny for Sylvia. With one exception, species fall into one of three strongly supported clades: one small clade of species distributed mainly in Africa and Europe, one large clade of species distributed mainly in Africa and Asia, and another large clade with primarily a circum-Mediterranean distribution. Asia is reconstructed as the ancestral area for Sylvia. Long-distance migration is reconstructed as the ancestral character state for the genus, and sedentary behavior subsequently evolved seven times.

Conclusion: Molecular clock calibration suggests that Sylvia arose in the early Miocene and diverged into three main clades by 12.6 Ma. Divergence estimates indicate that the Messinian Salinity Crisis had a minor impact on Sylvia. Instead, over-water dispersals, repeated loss of long-distance migration, and palaeo-climatic events in Africa played primary roles in Sylvia divergence and distribution.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Generalized map of major Sylvia distributional areas (breeding) and important barriers discussed in text. Numbers in parentheses following area names indicate the number of species endemic to that area. Numbers on area-connecting arrows indicate that a given species is distributed in both of those areas; many species are distributed in multiple areas, and are therefore tallied on multiple area-connecting arrows. The dividing line for determining European versus Asian distribution is Turkey (dashed line). Circled numbers indicate island endemic species as follows: 1) Sylvia dohrni (Príncipe), 2) S. balearica (Balearic Islands), 3) S. sarda (Sardinia and Corsica), and 4) S. melanothorax (Cyprus).
Figure 2
Figure 2
Phylogeny of Sylvia warblers, based on maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses of mitochondrial cyt-b and ND2 data. Values above nodes are maximum likelihood bootstrap support values; asterisks denote support values ≥ 75. Values below nodes are Bayesian posterior probabilities; asterisks denote probabilities ≥ 95. The phylogenetic position of Sylvia leucomelaena is based on cyt-b data only.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Ancestral area and migratory state reconstructions for Sylvia warblers. Ancestral area reconstructions above nodes are based on DIVA analysis; reconstructions below nodes are based on LaGrange analysis. Asterisks associated with individual species ranges indicate species that have broad continental distributions, but that also have distributions on Mediterranean islands; reconstructions shown above and below nodes do not reflect the inclusion of these island distributions. Alternatively, when Island is included in the distribution of those species and thus is considered as a possible ancestral area, DIVA or LaGrange reconstruct an Island ancestral area at all nodes in one major clade (indicated by asterisks to the right of nodes). Dashed branches indicate equivocal reconstructions under the most parsimonious reconstruction of migratory habit.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Molecular clock estimates of lineage divergence times in Sylvia, based on a cyt-b mean rate calibration of 2.1% per million years (see text). Bars at nodes indicate 95% highest posterior density interval. The vertical shaded rectangle indicates the duration of the Mediterranean Salinity Crisis; the end of the MSC marks the end of the Miocene and the beginning of the Pliocene. The vertical dashed line indicates the Plio-Pleistocene boundary. Arrows with "ML" indicate lineages that have lost long-distance migration.

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