The dual role of Amazonian rivers in the generation and maintenance of avian diversity

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Science Advances  01 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaar8575
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar8575


The Amazon River and its major tributaries delimit the distributions of hundreds of terrestrial taxa. It remains unclear whether river-bounded distributions and taxon replacements reflect the historical role of rivers in generating species diversity as vicariant forces, or are the result of their role as secondary barriers, maintaining current levels of species diversity by inhibiting gene flow and population introgression. We use a community-wide comparative phylogeographic and phylogenetic approach to address the roles that the Rio Negro and the Rio Branco play in the avian speciation process in the Guiana Shield. Examining 74 pairs of ecologically similar geographic replacements that turn over across the lower Negro, we found substantial variation in the levels of genetic divergence and the inferred timing of diversification among pairs, ranging from ~0.24 to over 8 million years (Ma ago). The breadth of this variation is inconsistent with a single, shared speciation event. Coalescent simulations also rejected a simultaneous divergence scenario for pairs divided by the Rio Branco but could not reject a single diversification pulse for a subset of 12 pairs of taxa divided by the upper Negro. These results are consistent with recent geomorphological hypotheses regarding the origins of these rivers. Phylogenetically, taxon pairs represent a blend of sister (~40%) and nonsister taxa (~60%), consistent with river-associated allopatric or peripatric speciation and secondary contact, respectively. Our data provide compelling evidence that species turnover across the Rio Negro basin encompasses a mixture of histories, supporting a dual role for Amazonian rivers in the generation and maintenance of biological diversity.

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