, Volume 56, Issue 13, pp 1370-1382,
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Date: 21 Apr 2011

Genetic consequences of postglacial colonization by the endemic Yarkand hare (Lepus yarkandensis) of the arid Tarim Basin


Orogenesis of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, which occurred in a stepwise manner, contributed to the extreme aridity of the Tarim Basin, resulting in vulnerable and unstable ecosystems. Quaternary climatic oscillations may have affected the ecosystems and, consequently, the distributions and genetic structuring of the Tarim Basin’s biota. We used nucleotide sequence data from 2 mitochondrial (mt) DNA genes (Cyt b and the D-loop) to test hypotheses associated with the matrilineal and demographical histories of the Tarim Basin’s endemic Yarkand hare (Lepus yarkandensis). Range-wide sampling involving 20 populations and 224 individuals detected 126 haplotypes that clustered into 5 major lineages in both the phylogenetic tree and median-joining network. Populations from the northern and eastern Tarim Basin shared a similar history, as did those from the western and southern regions. Demographical analysis and genetic diversity estimations suggested that the western and southern regions might have served as glacial refugia for the Yarkand hare during Quaternary climatic oscillations. The distribution of the Yarkand hare, especially in the northern and eastern parts, probably represented 3 postglacial colonization events, dated to 0.21, 0.090 and 0.054 MYA, which corresponded to known interglacial periods. Given the relatively complete geographic isolation between the eastern and southern populations, the Yarkand hare likely dispersed during postglacial periods from the southwest to the north, and then onward to the east. The absence of water likely forced the species into refugia, and this differed from other Pleistocene biogeographical drivers. The demographical and historical patterns have important implications for conservation.

These authors contributed equally to this work
This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com