This project investigates how climatic fluctuations over the Plio-Pleistocene have affected the geographical distribution, demographic history and genetic structure of five species of co-distributed Eastern Afromontane small mammals in the Albertine and Kenyan Rifts. In African montane forests, the expansion and contraction of habitats may have played an important role in shaping the diversity of mammalian communities where centers of taxonomic and genetic diversity are predicted to be coincident with areas that acted as persistent forest refugia during glacial maxima. My study jointly utilizes species distribution models and multi-locus molecular genetic data to investigate how geographic and climatic processes have driven these evolutionary and ecological processes. Questions to be addressed include whether and by what forces taxa are continuing to diverge and how historical scenarios shaped current patterns of lineage and genetic diversity.

This research uses next-generation sequencing to generate large numbers of loci that will allow fine-scale inference of population genetic patterns and more precise inferences regarding demographic history. Results from this work can be used to assess the conservation and evolutionary significance of African montane mammal species in an imperiled global biodiversity hotspot and delineate sub-regions that harbor historically persistent lineages. Collaboration with Kenyan researchers will enhance professional credentials of developing African scientists as well as contribute to taxonomic descriptions of new species being uncovered in this project. This study will also provide undergraduates an introduction to new approaches in molecular biological research, including phylogenomic analysis, that are applicable to diverse sets of biological and biomedical fields.

Project Report

This project investigates how climatic fluctuations over the Plio-Pleistocene have affected the geographical distribution, demographic history and genetic structure of four species of co-distributed Eastern Afromontane small mammals in the Albertine and Kenyan Rifts. In African montane forests, the expansion and contraction of habitats may have played an important role in shaping the diversity of mammalian communities where centers of taxonomic and genetic diversity are predicted to be coincident with areas that acted as persistent forest refugia during glacial maxima. This project used next-generation sequencing to generate large numbers of independent loci that allow for fine-scale inference of population genetic patterns and more precise inferences regarding demographic history. We developed a workflow for analysis of next-generation sequence data and carried out preliminary phylogenetic analyses that revealed high levels of genetic diversity in the Albertine Rift and deep divergences between currently recognized species, as well as newly uncovered cryptic sister taxa in both the Albertine Rift and Kenyan Highlands. Results from this work can be used to assess the conservation and evolutionary significance of African montane mammal species in an imperiled global biodiversity hotspot and delineate sub-regions that harbor historically persistent lineages. Ongoing collaboration with African researchers will enhance professional credentials of developing African scientists as well as contribute to taxonomic descriptions of new species being uncovered in this project.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1110682
Program Officer
Samuel M. Scheiner
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-05-01
Budget End
2013-04-30
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$13,903
Indirect Cost
Name
CUNY Queens College
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Flushing
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
11367