Palaeoclimatic niche modelling reveals the phylogeographic history of the South African shrew Myosorex varius and the colonisation route of the genus Myosorex (Mammalia, Soricidae) from East Africa

Govan Pahad, Bettine Jansen van Vuuren, Claudine Montgelard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Myosorex varius is a South African generalist shrew, which has been found to consist of several genetic clades across its range. A northern clade inhabits the more mesic, summer-rainfall areas of grassland and savannah in the east of South Africa. A southern clade occupies areas of fynbos in the south, and can be further divided into a western subclade occupying winter-rainfall areas and an eastern subclade occupying areas with aseasonal rainfall. Non-South-African members of the African genus Myosorex primarily are limited to isolated montane habitats along the East African Rift System. Here, we used palaeoclimatic niche modelling to examine the effects of Pliocene and Pleistocene climate change on the distributions of M. varius, its clades and the genus as a whole. Results indicate that repeated cycles of range expansion during glacial periods and fragmentation during interglacials are responsible for current phylogeographic patterns within M. varius. Based on their close alignment with rainfall zones and lack of genetic mixing despite areas of contact, it is likely that these (sub)clades are locally adapted to their respective areas. Earlier climatic fluctuations allowed the genus to ‘island hop’ south from East Africa along the East African Rift System, expanding in range during cooler periods and retreating to montane refugia during warmer periods. Areas currently occupied by Myosorex species largely correspond with predicted montane refugia that have allowed them to survive previous warm periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-590
Number of pages12
JournalMammalian Biology
Volume103
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Environmental niche modelling
  • Genetic clades
  • Glacial cycles
  • Myosorex varius
  • Palaeoclimates
  • Past distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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