Whole‐genome resequencing reveals persistence of forest‐associated mammals in Late Pleistocene refugia along North America’s North Pacific Coast

Journal of Biogeography
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Abstract

Aim

Numerous glacial refugia have been hypothesized along North America's North Pacific Coast that may have increased divergence of refugial taxa, leading to elevated endemism and subsequently clustered hybrid zones following deglaciation. The locations and community composition of these ice‐free areas remains controversial, but whole‐genome sequences now enable detailed analysis of the demographic and evolutionary histories of refugial taxa. Here, we use genomic data to test spatial and temporal processes of diversification among martens with respect to the Coastal Refugium Hypothesis, to understand the role of climate cycling in shaping diversity across complex landscapes.

Location

North America and North Pacific Coast archipelagos.

Taxon

North American martens (Martes).

Methods

Short‐read whole‐genome resequencing data were generated for 11 martens: four M. americana, four M. caurina, two hybrids, and one outgroup (Martes zibellina). Sampling was representative of known genetic clades within New World martens, including sampling within insular and continental hybrid zones and along the North Pacific Coast (five island populations). ADMIXTURE, F‐statistics, and D‐statistics (ABBA‐BABA) were used to identify introgression and infer directionality. Heterozygosity densities, estimated via PSMC, were used to characterize historical demography at and below the species level to infer refugial and colonization processes.

Results

Forest‐associated Pacific martens (M. caurina) are divided into distinct insular and continental clades consistent with the Coastal Refugium Hypothesis. There was no evidence of introgression on islands that received historical translocations of American pine martens (M. americana), but introgression was detected in two active zones of secondary contact: one insular and one continental. Only early‐generational hybrids were identified across multiple hybrid zones, a pattern consistent with potential genetic swamping of M. caurina by M. americana.

Main conclusions

Despite an incomplete fossil record, genomic evidence supports the persistence of forest‐associated martens, likely the insular Pacific marten lineage, along the western edges of the Alexander Archipelago during the Last Glacial Maximum. This discovery informs our understanding of refugial paleoenvironments, critical to interpreting refugial timing, duration, and community composition. Genomic reevaluations of other taxa along North America's North Pacific Coast may yield new and deeper perspectives on the history of refugial forest communities and the role of dynamic climate shifts in shaping high‐latitude diversity across complex insular landscapes.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Whole‐genome resequencing reveals persistence of forest‐associated mammals in Late Pleistocene refugia along North America’s North Pacific Coast
Series title Journal of Biogeography
DOI 10.1111/jbi.14068
Edition Online First
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB
Country Canada, United States
State Alaska, British Columbia, California, Oregon, Washington, Yukon
Other Geospatial North Pacific Coast
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