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Data from: Historical biogeography resolves the origins of endemic Arabian toad lineages (Anura: Bufonidae): evidence for ancient vicariance and dispersal events with the Horn of Africa and South Asia

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Portik, Daniel M.; Papenfuss, Theodore J. (2015). Data from: Historical biogeography resolves the origins of endemic Arabian toad lineages (Anura: Bufonidae): evidence for ancient vicariance and dispersal events with the Horn of Africa and South Asia [Dataset]. Dryad.


Background: The Arabian Peninsula is home to a unique fauna that has assembled and evolved throughout the course of major geophysical events, including the separation of the Arabian Plate from Africa and subsequent collision with Eurasia. Opportunities for faunal exchanges with particular continents occurred in temporally distinct periods, and the presence of African, Western Eurasian, and South Asian derived taxa on the Arabian Peninsula signifies the complexity of these historical biogeographic events. The six true toad species (family Bufonidae) endemic to Arabian Peninsula present a considerable taxonomic and biogeographic challenge because they are part of a global bufonid radiation, including several genera surrounding the Arabian Peninsula, and difficult to discriminate morphologically. As they could be derived from African, Western Eurasian, or South Asian toad groups, elucidating their evolutionary relationships has important implications for historical biogeography. Here, we analyze a global molecular data set of 243 bufonid lineages, with an emphasis on new sampling from the Horn of Africa, Western Eurasia, South Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula, to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of the Arabian species. We produce a robust time-calibrated phylogeny to infer the biogeographic history of this group on and around the Arabian Peninsula. Results: Our phylogenetic analyses indicate two of the endemic Arabian toad species, “Bufo” tihamicus and “Bufo” arabicus, evolved independently within the African genus Amietophrynus. We confirm the Arabian species Duttaphrynus dhufarensis is of South Asian origin, but do not find evidence for the Asian genus Duttaphrynus being present in the Horn of Africa, discrediting a previously proposed Asian bufonid dispersal event to Africa. We also do not find evidence of the African genus Amietophrynus occurring in South Asia, suggesting that unlike many other vertebrate taxa, toads have not used the Arabian Peninsula as a stepping-stone for trans-continental dispersal. Our divergence dating estimates strongly suggest the formation of the Red Sea drove simultaneous divergences between two of the Arabian species (A. tihamicus comb. nov. and A. arabicus comb. nov.) and their xclosest mainland African relatives in the Early Miocene. We estimate the divergence of D. dhufarensis with its closest South Asian relatives occurred in the mid to Late Miocene, suggesting the temporary or permanent land connections between the Arabian plate and Eurasia facilitated dispersal of this lineage to the Arabian Peninsula. Conclusions: The Arabian bufonid assemblage, despite being comparatively depauperate with respect to surrounding continents, exemplifies the faunal pattern of the Arabian Peninsula, namely being a complex admixture of African, Western Eurasian, and South Asian elements. The historical biogeographic patterns exhibited by Arabian toads and their allies are concordant with studies of other vertebrate taxa, building support for the role of major geological events in driving simultaneous vicariance and dispersal events around the Arabian Peninsula. Although many taxa or groups exhibiting disjunct Afro-Arabian distributions appear to have dispersed more recently from the Horn of Africa via a southern land bridge or overwater dispersal, both Amietophrynus tihamicus and A. arabicus likely represent true African relicts resulting from vicariance associated with the Red Sea formation, a pattern that so far is rare among the vertebrate species investigated.

Usage notes


Arabian Peninsula
Red Sea
Horn of Africa
South Asia
Western Eurasia