Multi-locus phylogeographic and population genetic analysis of Anolis carolinensis: Historical demography of a genomic model species

Marc Tollis, Gavriel Ausubel, Dhruba Ghimire, Stéphane Boissinot

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The green anole (Anolis carolinensis) has been widely used as an animal model in physiology and neurobiology but has recently emerged as an important genomic model. The recent sequencing of its genome has shed new light on the evolution of vertebrate genomes and on the process that govern species diversification. Surprisingly, the patterns of genetic diversity within natural populations of this widespread and abundant North American lizard remain relatively unknown. In the present study, we use 10 novel nuclear DNA sequence loci (N = 62 to 152) and one mitochondrial locus (N = 226) to delimit green anole populations and infer their historical demography. We uncovered four evolutionarily distinct and geographically restricted lineages of green anoles using phylogenetics, Bayesian clustering, and genetic distance methods. Molecular dating indicates that these lineages last shared a common ancestor ~2 million years ago. Summary statistics and analysis of the frequency distributions of DNA polymorphisms strongly suggest range-wide expansions in population size. Using Bayesian Skyline Plots, we inferred the timing of population size expansions, which differ across lineages, and found evidence for a relatively recent and rapid westward expansion of green anoles across the Gulf Coastal Plain during the mid-Pleistocene. One surprising result is that the distribution of genetic diversity is not consistent with a latitudinal shift caused by climatic oscillations as is observed for many co-distributed taxa. This suggests that the most recent Pleistocene glacial cycles had a limited impact on the geographic distribution of the green anole at the northern limits of its range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere38474
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 7 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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