Saturday, September 3, 2016

[Herpetology • 2016] Glaciations, Gradients, and Geography: Multiple Drivers of Diversification of Bush Frogs in the Western Ghats Escarpment

Figure 2. Geographical ancestral range reconstruction on a chronogram of Western Ghats bush frogs Raorchestes shows two sister clades, North and South, divided by an ancient barrier, the Palghat Gap (PG), with limited dispersal (see map). The range on the map does not incorporate dispersal across the PG and an isolated lineage from one of the eastern massifs. Inset map shows global geographical extent of the lineages used in the reconstruction. 


The historical processes underlying high diversity in tropical biodiversity hotspots like the Western Ghats of Peninsular India remain poorly understood. We sampled bush frogs on 13 massifs across the Western Ghats Escarpment and examined the relative influence of Quaternary glaciations, ecological gradients and geological processes on the spatial patterns of lineage and clade diversification. The results reveal a large in situ radiation (more than 60 lineages), exhibiting geographical structure and clade-level endemism, with two deeply divergent sister clades, North and South, highlighting the biogeographic significance of an ancient valley, the Palghat Gap. A majority of the bush frog sister lineages were isolated on adjacent massifs, and signatures of range stasis provide support for the dominance of geological processes in allopatric speciation. In situ diversification events within the montane zones (more than 1800 m) of the two highest massifs suggest a role for climate-mediated forest-grassland persistence. Independent transitions along elevational gradients among sub-clades during the Miocene point to diversification along the elevational gradient. The study highlights the evolutionary significance of massifs in the Western Ghats with the high elevations acting as centres of lineage diversification and the low- and mid-elevations of the southern regions, with deeply divergent lineages, serving as museums.

KEYWORDS: diversification; bush frogs; Western Ghats; Earth processes

Figure 1. Alternative processes driving diversification in a mountain setting and expected patterns of sister-lineage distributions (summarized in the electronic supplementary material, table S1). 

S. P. Vijayakumar, Riya C. Menezes, Aditi Jayarajan and Kartik Shanker. 2016. Glaciations, Gradients, and Geography: Multiple Drivers of Diversification of Bush Frogs in the Western Ghats Escarpment. Proc. R. Soc. B 283: 20161011.  DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1011
An evolutionary museum of bush frogs - Nature India DOI: 10.1038/nindia.2016.105