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Combining species delimitation, species trees, and tests for gene flow illuminates complex speciation in scrub-jays


DeRaad, Devon (2022), Combining species delimitation, species trees, and tests for gene flow illuminates complex speciation in scrub-jays, Dryad, Dataset,


Complex speciation, involving rapid divergence and multiple bouts of post-divergence gene flow, can obfuscate phylogenetic relationships and species limits. In North America, cases of complex speciation are common, due at least in part to the cyclical Pleistocene glacial history of the continent. Scrub-jays in the genus Aphelocoma provide a useful case study in complex speciation because their range throughout North America is structured by phylogeographic barriers with multiple cases of secondary contact between divergent lineages. Here, we show that a comprehensive approach to genomic reconstruction of evolutionary history, i.e., synthesizing results from species delimitation, species tree reconstruction, demographic model testing, and tests for gene flow, is capable of clarifying evolutionary history despite complex speciation. We find concordant evidence across all statistical approaches for the distinctiveness of an endemic southern Mexico lineage (A. w. sumichrasti), culminating in support for the species status of this lineage under any commonly applied species concept. We also find novel genomic evidence for the species status of a Texas endemic lineage A. w. texana, for which equivocal species delimitation results were clarified by demographic modeling and spatially explicit models of gene flow. Finally, we find that complex signatures of both ancient and modern gene flow between the non-sister California Scrub-Jay (A. californica) and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (A. woodhouseii), result in discordant gene trees throughout the species’ genomes despite clear support for their overall isolation and species status. In sum, we find that a multi-faceted approach to genomic analysis can increase our understanding of complex speciation histories, even in well-studied groups. Given the emerging recognition that complex speciation is relatively commonplace, the comprehensive framework that we demonstrate for interrogation of species limits and evolutionary history using genomic data can provide a necessary roadmap for disentangling the impacts of gene flow and incomplete lineage sorting to better understand the systematics of other groups with similarly complex evolutionary histories.

Usage Notes

Unfiltered SNPs called across all 115 samples are available as a gzipped vcf file called 'populations.snps_(1).vcf.gz'. Supplementary methods associated with the paper are contained in the file 'supplemental.material.may1.2022.docx'.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1557053