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Background: Mediterranean islands host a disproportionately high level of biodiversity and endemisms. Growing phylogeographic evidence on island endemics has unveiled unexpectedly complex patterns of intra-island diversification, which originated at diverse spatial and temporal scales. We investigated multilocus genetic variation of the Corsican-Sardinian endemic lizard Podarcis tiliguerta with the aim of shedding more light on the evolutionary processes underlying the origin of Mediterranean island biodiversity. Results: We analysed DNA sequences of mitochondrial (12S and nd4) and nuclear (acm4 and mc1r) gene fragments in 174 individuals of P. tiliguerta from 81 localities across the full range of the species in a geographic and genealogical framework. We found surprisingly high genetic diversity both at mitochondrial and nuclear loci. Seventeen reciprocally monophyletic allopatric mitochondrial haplogroups were sharply divided into four main mitochondrial lineages (two in Corsica and two in Sardinia) of Miocene origin. In contrast, shallow divergence and shared diversity within and between islands was observed at the nuclear loci. We evaluated alternative biogeographic and evolutionary scenarios to explain such profound discordance in spatial and phylogenetic patterning between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. While neutral models provided unparsimonious explanations for the observed pattern, the hypothesis of environmental selection driving mitochondrial divergence in the presence of nuclear gene flow is favoured. Conclusions: Our study on the genetic variation of P. tiliguerta reveals surprising levels of diversity underlining a complex phylogeographic pattern with a striking example of mito-nuclear discordance. These findings have profound implications, not only for the taxonomy and conservation of P. tiliguerta. Growing evidence on deep mitochondrial breaks in absence of geographic barriers and of climatic factors associated to genetic variation of Corsican-Sardinian endemics warrants additional investigation on the potential role of environmental selection driving the evolution of diversity hotspots within Mediterranean islands.
Salvi, D., Pinho, C., & Harris, D. J. (2017). Digging up the roots of an insular hotspot of genetic diversity: Decoupled mito-nuclear histories in the evolution of the Corsican-Sardinian endemic lizard Podarcis tiliguerta. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-017-0899-x