Publication details

Gene flow in phylogenomics: Sequence capture resolves species limits and biogeography of Afromontane forest endemic frogs from the Cameroon Highlands


DOLINAY Matej NEČAS Tadeáš ZIMKUS Breda M. SCHMITZ Andreas FOKAM Eric B. LEMMON Emily Moriarty LEMMON Alan R. GVOŽDÍK Václav

Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Afrotropics; Anchored phylogenomics; Natatanura; Phylogeography; Reticulate evolution; Taxonomy
Description Puddle frogs of the Phrynobatrachus steindachneri species complex are a useful group for investigating speciation and phylogeography in Afromontane forests of the Cameroon Volcanic Line, western Central Africa. The species complex is represented by six morphologically relatively cryptic mitochondrial DNA lineages, only two of which are distinguished at the species level - southern P. jimzimkusi and Lake Oku endemic P. njiomock, leaving the remaining four lineages identified as 'P. steindachneri'. In this study, the six mtDNA lineages are subjected to genomic sequence capture analyses and morphological examination to delimit species and to study biogeography. The nuclear DNA data (387 loci; 571,936 aligned base pairs) distinguished all six mtDNA lineages, but the topological pattern and divergence depths supported only four main clades: P. jimzimkusi, P. njiomock, and only two divergent evolutionary lineages within the four 'P. steindachneri' mtDNA lineages. One of the two lineages is herein described as a new species, P. amieti sp. nov. Reticulate evolution (hybridization) was detected within the species complex with morphologically intermediate hybrid individuals placed between the parental species in phylogenomic analyses, forming a ladder-like phylogenetic pattern. The presence of hybrids is undesirable in standard phylogenetic analyses but is essential and beneficial in the network multispecies coalescent. This latter approach provided insight into the reticulate evolutionary history of these endemic frogs. Introgressions likely occurred during the Middle and Late Pleistocene climatic oscillations, due to the cyclic connections (likely dominating during cold glacials) and separations (during warm interglacials) of montane forests. The genomic phylogeographic pattern supports the separation of the southern (Mt. Manengouba to Mt. Oku) and northern mountains at the onset of the Pleistocene. Further subdivisions occurred in the Early Pleistocene, separating populations from the northernmost (Tchabal Mbabo, Gotel Mts.) and middle mountains (Mt. Mbam, Mt. Oku, Mambilla Plateau), as well as the microendemic lineage restricted to Lake Oku (Mt. Oku). This unique model system is highly threatened as all the species within the complex have exhibited severe population declines in the past decade, placing them on the brink of extinction. In addition, Mount Oku is identified to be of particular conservation importance because it harbors three species of this complex. We, therefore, urge for conservation actions in the Cameroon Highlands to preserve their diversity before it is too late.
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