How natural climate cycles, such as past glacial/interglacial patterns, have shaped species distributions at the high-latitude regions of the Southern Hemisphere is still largely unclear. Here, we show how the post-glacial warming following the Last Glacial Maximum (ca 18 000 years ago), allowed the (re)colonization of the fragmented sub-Antarctic habitat by an upper-level marine predator, the king penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus. Using restriction site-associated DNA sequencing and standard mitochondrial data, we tested the behaviour of subsets of anonymous nuclear loci in inferring past demography through coalescent-based and allele frequency spectrum analyses. Our results show that the king penguin population breeding on Crozet archipelago steeply increased in size, closely following the Holocene warming recorded in the Epica Dome C ice core. The following population growth can be explained by a threshold model in which the ecological requirements of this species (year-round ice-free habitat for breeding and access to a major source of food such as the Antarctic Polar Front) were met on Crozet soon after the Pleistocene/Holocene climatic transition.
Keywords: Antarctica; Last Glacial Maximum; coalescence; restriction site-associated DNA sequencing; seabirds.
© 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.