Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Early and dynamic colonization of Central America drives speciation in Neotropical army ants


Winston, Max E.; Kronauer, Daniel J. C.; Moreau, Corrie S. (2016), Data from: Early and dynamic colonization of Central America drives speciation in Neotropical army ants, Dryad, Dataset,


The emergence of the Isthmus of Panama is one of the most important events in recent geological history, yet its timing and role in fundamental evolutionary processes remain controversial. While the formation of the isthmus was complete around 3 million years ago (Ma), recent studies have suggested prior intercontinental biotic exchange. In particular, the possibility of early intermittent land bridges facilitating colonization constitutes a potential mechanism for speciation and colonization before full closure of the isthmus. To test this hypothesis, we employed genomic methods to study the biogeography of the army ant genus Eciton, a group of keystone arthropod predators in Neotropical rainforests. Army ant colonies are unable to disperse across water and are therefore ideally suited to study the biogeographic impact of land bridge formation. Using a reduced representation genome sequencing approach, we show that all strictly Central American lineages of Eciton diverged from their respective South American sister lineage between 4 and 7 Ma, significantly prior to the complete closure of the isthmus. Furthermore, three of the lineage pairs form extensive and coincident secondary contact zones in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with no evidence of gene flow. Such a discrete and repeated biogeographic pattern indicates at least two waves of army ant dispersal into Central America that were separated by significant genetic divergence times. Thus, by integrating phylogenomic, population genomic and geographic evidence, we show that early colonization of Central America across the emerging Isthmus of Panamá drove parallel speciation in Eciton army ants.

Usage Notes


Isthmus of Panama