Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Population genomic structure in Goodman's mouse lemur reveals long-standing separation of Madagascar's Central Highlands and eastern rainforests

Madagascar's Central Highlands are largely composed of grasslands, interspersed with patches of forest. The historical perspective was that Madagascar's grasslands had anthropogenic origins, but emerging evidence suggests that grasslands were a component of the pre-human Central Highlands vegetation. Consequently, there is now vigorous debate regarding the extent to which these grasslands have expanded due to anthropogenic pressures. Here, we shed light on the temporal dynamics of Madagascar's vegetative composition by conducting a population genomic investigation of Goodman's mouse lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara; Cheirogaleidae). These small-bodied primates occur both in Madagascar's eastern rainforests and in the Central Highlands, making them a valuable indicator species. Population divergences among forest-dwelling mammals will reflect changes to their habitat, including fragmentation, whereas patterns of post-divergence gene flow can reveal formerly wooded migration corridors. To explore these patterns, we used RADseq data to infer population genetic structure, demographic models of post-divergence gene flow, and population size change through time. The results offer evidence that open habitats are an ancient component of the Central Highlands, and that widespread forest fragmentation occurred naturally during a period of decreased precipitation near the last glacial maximum. Models of gene flow suggest that migration across the Central Highlands has been possible from the Pleistocene through the recent Holocene via riparian corridors. Though our findings support the hypothesis that Central Highland grasslands predate human arrival, we also find evidence for human-mediated population declines. This highlights the extent to which species imminently threatened by human-mediated deforestation may already be vulnerable from paleoclimatic conditions.


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