Identifying Shared Genetic Structure Patterns among Pacific Northwest Forest Taxa: Insights from Use of Visualization Tools and Computer Simulations
Identifying causal relationships in phylogeographic and landscape genetic investigations is notoriously difficult, but can be facilitated by use of multispecies comparisons.
We used data visualizations to identify common spatial patterns within single lineages of four taxa inhabiting Pacific Northwest forests (northern spotted owl: Strix occidentalis caurina; red tree vole: Arborimus longicaudus; southern torrent salamander: Rhyacotriton variegatus; and western white pine: Pinus monticola). Visualizations suggested that, despite occupying the same geographical region and habitats, species responded differently to prevailing historical processes. S. o. caurina and P. monticola demonstrated directional patterns of spatial genetic structure where genetic distances and diversity were greater in southern versus northern locales. A. longicaudus and R. variegatus displayed opposite patterns where genetic distances were greater in northern versus southern regions. Statistical analyses of directional patterns subsequently confirmed observations from visualizations. Based upon regional climatological history, we hypothesized that observed latitudinal patterns may have been produced by range expansions. Subsequent computer simulations confirmed that directional patterns can be produced by expansion events.
We discuss phylogeographic hypotheses regarding historical processes that may have produced observed patterns. Inferential methods used here may become increasingly powerful as detailed simulations of organisms and historical scenarios become plausible. We further suggest that inter-specific comparisons of historical patterns take place prior to drawing conclusions regarding effects of current anthropogenic change within landscapes.
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