Microallopatry caused strong diversification in Buthus scorpions (Scorpiones: Buthidae) in the Atlas Mountains (NW Africa).

Authors:
Jan C Habel, Martin Husemann, Thomas Schmitt, Frank E Zachos, Ann-Christin Honnen, Britt Petersen, Aristeidis Parmakelis, Iasmi Stathi
Year of publication:
2012
Volume:
7
Issue:
2
Issn:
1932-6203
Journal title abbreviated:
PLoS ONE
Journal title long:
PloS one
Impact factor:
2.740
Abstract:
The immense biodiversity of the Atlas Mountains in North Africa might be the result of high rates of microallopatry caused by mountain barriers surpassing 4000 meters leading to patchy habitat distributions. We test the influence of geographic structures on the phylogenetic patterns among Buthus scorpions using mtDNA sequences. We sampled 91 individuals of the genus Buthus from 51 locations scattered around the Atlas Mountains (Antiatlas, High Atlas, Middle Atlas and Jebel Sahro). We sequenced 452 bp of the Cytochrome Oxidase I gene which proved to be highly variable within and among Buthus species. Our phylogenetic analysis yielded 12 distinct genetic groups one of which comprised three subgroups mostly in accordance with the orographic structure of the mountain systems. Main clades overlap with each other, while subclades are distributed parapatrically. Geographic structures likely acted as long-term barriers among populations causing restriction of gene flow and allowing for strong genetic differentiation. Thus, genetic structure and geographical distribution of genetic (sub)clusters follow the classical theory of allopatric differentiation where distinct groups evolve without range overlap until reproductive isolation and ecological differentiation has built up. Philopatry and low dispersal ability of Buthus scorpions are the likely causes for the observed strong genetic differentiation at this small geographic scale.