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Phylogeography, historical demography and habitat suitability modelling of freshwater fishes inhabiting seasonally fluctuating Mediterranean river systems: a case study

Home Forums Ichthyology Phylogeography, historical demography and habitat suitability modelling of freshwater fishes inhabiting seasonally fluctuating Mediterranean river systems: a case study

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    Matt
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    Molecular Ecology – accepted article

    Abstract

    The Mediterranean freshwater fish fauna has evolved under constraints imposed by the seasonal weather/hydrological patterns that define the Mediterranean climate. These conditions have influenced the genetic and demographic structure of aquatic communities since their origins in the Mid-Pliocene. Freshwater species in Mediterranean-type climates will likely constitute genetically well-differentiated populations, to varying extents depending on basin size, as a consequence of fragmentation resulting from drought/flood cycles. We developed an integrative framework to study spatial patterns in genetic diversity, demographic trends, habitat suitability modelling and landscape genetics, to evaluate the evolutionary response of Mediterranean-type freshwater fish to seasonal fluctuations in weather. To test this evolutionary response, the model species used was Squalius valentinus, an endemic cyprinid of the Spanish Levantine area, where seasonal weather fluctuations are extreme, although our findings may be extrapolated to other Mediterranean-type species. Our results underscore the significant role of the Mediterranean climate, along with Pleistocene glaciations, in diversification of S. valentinus. We found higher nuclear diversity in larger drainage basins, but higher mitochondrial diversity correlated to habitat suitability rather than basin size. We also found strong correlation between genetic structure and climatic factors associated with Mediterranean seasonality. Demographic and migration analyses suggested population expansion during glacial periods that also contributed to the current genetic structure of S. valentinus populations. The inferred models support the significant contribution of precipitation and temperature to S. valentinus habitat suitability and allow recognizing areas of habitat stability. We highlight the importance of stable habitat conditions, fostered by typical karstic springs found on the Mediterranean littoral coasts, for the preservation of freshwater species inhabiting seasonally fluctuating river systems.

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