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Persistence and dispersal in a Southern Hemisphere glaciated landscape: the phylogeography of the spotted snow skink (Niveoscincus ocellatus) in Tasmania


Cliff, HB and Wapstra, E and Burridge, CP, Persistence and dispersal in a Southern Hemisphere glaciated landscape: the phylogeography of the spotted snow skink (Niveoscincus ocellatus) in Tasmania, BMC Evolutionary Biology, 15, (121) pp. 1-13. ISSN 1471-2148 (2015) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

© 2015 Cliff et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1186/s12862-015-0397-y



The aim of this research was to identify the effects of Pleistocene climate change on the distribution of fauna in Tasmania, and contrast this with biotic responses in other temperate regions in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere that experienced glacial activity during this epoch. This was achieved by examining the phylogeographic patterns in a widely distributed Tasmanian endemic reptile, Niveoscincus ocellatus. 204 individuals from 29 populations across the distributional range of N. ocellatus were surveyed for variation at two mitochondrial genes (ND2, ND4), and two nuclear genes (β-globin, RPS8). Phylogenetic relationships were reconstructed using a range of methods (maximum parsimony, Bayesian inference and haplotype networks), and the demographic histories of populations were assessed (AMOVA, Tajimaís D, Fuís Fs, mismatch distributions, extended Bayesian skyline plots, and relaxed random walk analyses).


There was a high degree of mitochondrial haplotype diversity (96 unique haplotypes) and phylogeographic structure, where spatially distinct groups were associated with Tasmaniaís Northeast and a large area covering Southeast and Central Tasmania. Phylogeographic structure was also present within each major group, but the degree varied regionally, being highest in the Northeast. Only the Southeastern group had a signature of demographic expansion, occurring during the Pleistocene but post-dating the Last Glacial Maximum. In contrast, nuclear DNA had low levels of variation and a lack of phylogeographic structure, and further loci should be surveyed to corroborate the mitochondrial inferences.


The phylogeographic patterns of N. ocellatus indicate Pleistocene range and demographic expansion in N. ocellatus, particularly in the Southeast and Central areas of Tasmania. Expansion in Central and Southeastern areas appears to have been more recent in both demographic and spatial contexts, than in Northeast Tasmania, which is consistent with inferences for other taxa of greater stability and persistence in Northeast Tasmania during the Last Glacial Maximum. These phylogeographic patterns indicate contrasting demographic histories of populations in close proximity to areas directly affected by glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere during the LGM.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:glacial refugia, Pleistocene, Tasmania, phylogeography, reptile, recolonisation
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Biogeography and phylogeography
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Cliff, HB (Miss Hannah Cliff)
UTAS Author:Wapstra, E (Professor Erik Wapstra)
UTAS Author:Burridge, CP (Associate Professor Christopher Burridge)
ID Code:103561
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:13
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2015-10-16
Last Modified:2017-10-31
Downloads:380 View Download Statistics

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