A comprehensive overview of the genetic diversity in Thylamys elegans (Didelphimorphia : Didelphidae) : establishing the phylogeographic determinants

Background: For the genus Thylamys, the rivers have been reported as barriers to dispersal, limiting current and historical distribution of its lineages. We hypothesized that the Maipo river has affected the genetic structure of northern and southern lineages of Thylamys elegans, recovering a phylogenetic relationships with reciprocally monophyletic sister groups on opposite river banks. We evaluated the role of other rivers in the Mediterranean zone of Chile as historical and recent modulators of the biogeographic processes of this species. Methods: We applied a phylogeographic approach, using the cytochrome-b mitochondrial gene for 93 individuals of T. elegans, from 37 localities in a latitudinal gradient between 21°25’ and 35˚56’S, encompassing a geographic area between the Atacama Desert and most of the Mediterranean Chilean zone. Results: The phylogenetics results recovered six lineages within T. elegans: Thylamys elegans elegans, Thylamys elegans coquimbensis, the Loa lineage and three other lineages not described previously (Aconcagua, South 1 and South 2). We suggest that following rivers play a role like primary barrier: the Maipo river in the genetic differentiation of northern and southern ancestral lineages, and the Mataquito river and its tributary Teno river for the South 1 and South 2 lineages. On the other hand, the Quilimarí river preserve the genetic divergence in T. e. coquimbensis and Aconcagua lineage and the Aconcagua river in Aconcagua lineage and T. e. elegans acting like secondary barriers. Conclusions: We concluded that the genetic diversity and biogeographic history of T. elegans was shaped by mountain glaciers, changes in river water levels during the Pleistocene glaciations and hyperaridity, promoting the differentiation and persistance of the T. elegans lineages.
Rivers, Mountains, Glaciations, Hiperaridity, Lineages
Revista Chilena de Historia Natural. 2021 Nov 11;94(1):5