Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 639–664 | Cite as

Revisiting Amazonian phylogeography: insights into diversification hypotheses and novel perspectives



The Amazon Basin harbors one of the richest biotas on Earth, such that a number of diversification hypotheses have been formulated to explain patterns of Amazonian biodiversity and biogeography. For nearly two decades, phylogeographic approaches have been applied to better understand the underlying causes of genetic differentiation and geographic structure among Amazonian organisms. Although this research program has made progress in elucidating several aspects of species diversification in the region, recent methodological and theoretical developments in the discipline of phylogeography will provide new perspectives through more robust hypothesis testing. Herein, we outline central aspects of Amazonian geology and landscape evolution as well as climate and vegetation dynamics through the Neogene and Quaternary to contextualize the historical settings considered by major hypotheses of diversification. We address each of these hypotheses by reviewing key phylogeographic papers and by expanding their respective predictions. We also propose future directions for devising and testing hypotheses. Specifically, combining the exploratory power of phylogeography with the statistical rigor of coalescent methods will greatly expand analytical inferences on the evolutionary history of Amazonian biota. Incorporation of non-genetic data from Earth science disciplines into the phylogeographic approach is key to a better understanding of the influence of climatic and geophysical events on patterns of Amazonian biodiversity and biogeography. In addition, achieving such an integrative enterprise must involve overcoming issues such as limited geographic and taxonomic sampling. These future challenges likely will be accomplished by a combination of extensive collaborative research and incentives for conducting basic inventories.


Amazonia Terrestrial vertebrates Biogeography Evolutionary history Phylogeography Diversification hypothesis Predictions Coalescent 



Support for this work was provided to R.N.L. by CAPES doctoral fellowship (No. BEX 1861/07-7), BYU Graduate Student Society Research Award, American Society of Mammalogists Grants-in-Aid, and Idea Wild. Additional support to R.N.L. and D.S.R. was available from NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (No. 1115208). We thank Margaret Byrne and Dorothy Steane for providing a modified version of the timeline scheme depicted on Fig. 1a. We also are thankful to Fernanda Werneck for assistance with the map and useful comments on previous versions of the manuscript. We thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

13127_2013_140_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (151 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 151 kb)


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© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.Monte L. Bean Life Science MuseumBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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