Phylogeographic analysis elucidates the influence of the Ice Ages on the disjunct distribution of relict dragonflies in Asia

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Abstract

Unusual biogeographic patterns of closely related groups reflect events in the past, and molecular analyses can help to elucidate these events. While ample research on the origin of disjunct distributions of different organism groups in the Western Paleartic has been conducted, such studies are rare for Eastern Palearctic organisms. In this paper we present a phylogeographic analysis of the disjunct distribution pattern of the extant species of the strongly cool-adapted Epiophlebia dragonflies from Asia. We investigated sequences of the usually more conserved 18 S rDNA and 28 S rDNA genes and the more variable sequences of ITS1, ITS2 and CO2 of all three currently recognised Epiophlebia species and of a sample of other odonatan species. In all genes investigated the degrees of similarity between species of Epiophlebia are very high and resemble those otherwise found between different populations of the same species in Odonata. This indicates that substantial gene transfer between these populations occurred in the comparatively recent past. Our analyses imply a wide distribution of the ancestor of extant Epiophlebia in Southeast Asia during the last ice age, when suitable habitats were more common. During the following warming phase, its range contracted, resulting in the current disjunct distribution. Given the strong sensitivity of these species to climatic parameters, the current trend to increasing global temperatures will further reduce acceptable habitats and seriously threaten the existences of these last representatives of an ancient group of Odonata.

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Büsse, S., von Grumbkow, P., Hummel, S., Shah, D. N., Shah, R. D. T., Li, J., … Hörnschemeyer, T. (2012). Phylogeographic analysis elucidates the influence of the Ice Ages on the disjunct distribution of relict dragonflies in Asia. PLoS ONE, 7(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038132

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