Phylogeography investigates historical drivers of the geographical distribution of intraspecific lineages. Particular attention has been given to ecological, climatic and geological processes in the diversification of the Neotropical biota. Several species sampled across the South American diagonal of open formations (DOF), comprising the Caatinga, Cerrado and Chaco biomes, experienced range shifts coincident with Quaternary climatic changes. However, comparative studies across different spatial, temporal and biological scales on DOF species are still meagre. Here, we combine phylogeographical model selection and machine learning predictive frameworks to investigate the influence of Pleistocene climatic changes on several plant and animal species from the DOF. We assembled mitochondrial/chloroplastic DNA sequences in public repositories and inferred the demographic responses of 44 species, comprising 70 intraspecific lineages of plants, lizards, frogs, spiders and insects. We then built a random forest model using biotic and abiotic information to identify the best predictors of demographic responses in the Pleistocene. Finally, we assessed the temporal synchrony of species demographic responses with hierarchical approximate Bayesian computation. Biotic variables related to population connectivity, gene flow and habitat preferences largely predicted how species responded to Pleistocene climatic changes, and demographic changes were synchronous primarily during the Middle Pleistocene. Although 22 (~31%) lineages underwent demographic expansion, presumably associated with the spread of aridity during the glacial Pleistocene periods, our findings suggest that nine lineages (~13%) exhibited the opposite response due to taxon-specific attributes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics