Genetic variation in the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) reveals island refugia and a fragmented Florida during the quaternary
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The green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) is a model organism for behavior and genomics that is native to the southeastern United States. It is currently thought that the ancestors of modern green anoles dispersed to peninsular Florida from Cuba. However, the climatic changes and geological features responsible for the early diversification of A. carolinensis in North America have remained largely unexplored. This is because previous studies (1) differ in their estimates of the divergence times of populations, (2) are based on a single genetic locus or (3) did not test specific hypotheses regarding the geologic and topographic history of Florida. Here we provide a multi-locus study of green anole genetic diversity and find that the Florida peninsula contains a larger number of genetically distinct populations that are more diverse than those on the continental mainland. As a test of the island refugia hypothesis in Pleistocene Florida, we use a coalescent approach to estimate the divergence times of modern green anole lineages. We find that all demographic events occurred during or after the Upper Pliocene and suggest that green anole diversification was driven by population divergence on interglacial island refugia in Florida during the Lower Pleistocene, while the region was often separated from continental North America. When Florida reconnected to the mainland, two separate dispersal events led to the expansion of green anole populations across the Atlantic Seaboard and Gulf Coastal Plain.
KeywordsAnolis carolinensis Florida Green anole Historical biogeography Coalescent Pleistocene
We would like to thank Sela Sherr (Queens College) for his help collecting anoles in the field, and Tonia Hsieh (Temple University) for sharing tissue samples from Florida. This research was supported by PSC-CUNY grant 63799-00-41 and NIH grant R15GM096267-01 to S.B. Fieldwork was funded by a CUNY Doctoral Research Grant and an American Museum of Natural History Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant to M.T. The work was conducted in part with equipment from the Core Facility for Imaging, Cellular and Molecular Biology at Queens College and was supported, in part, under National Science Foundation Grants CNS-0958379 and CNS-0855217 and the City University of New York High Performance Computing Center.
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