The Atlantic Forest (AF) of South America harbors one of the world's highest bird species richness, but to date there is a deficient understanding of the spatial patterns of genetic diversity and the evolutionary history of this biome. Here we estimated the phylogenetic and populational history of the widespread Mouse-colored Tapaculo (Scytalopus speluncae) complex across the Brazilian AF, using data from two mitochondrial genes and 12 microsatellite loci. Both markers uncovered several cryptic, mostly allopatric and well-supported lineages that may represent distinct species-level taxa. We investigated whether diversification in S. speluncae is compatible with the Carnaval-Moritz model of Pleistocene refugia. We found that northern lineages have high levels of genetic diversity, agreeing with predictions of more stable forest refugia in these areas. In contrast, southern lineages have lower levels of mtDNA diversity with a signature of population expansion that occurred earlier (~0.2 Mya) than the last glacial maximum. This result suggests that the AF may be stable enough to maintain endemic taxa through glacial cycles. Moreover, we propose that the "mid-Pleistocene climate transition" between 1.2 and 0.7 million years ago, from a warmer to a colder climate, may have played an important but mostly overlooked role in the evolution of AF montane taxa.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology