Can We Prove That Some Mammals ‘Hid Out’ During Glacial Times? – #365papers – 2018 – 9

Ntie, Davis, Hils, Mickala, Thomassen, Morgan, Vanthomme, Gonder, and Anthony, 2017, Evaluating the role of Pleistocene refugia, rivers and environmental variation in the diversification of central African duikers (genera Cephalophus and Philantomba): BMC Evolutionary Biology, v. 17.

What’s it about?

Researchers have suggested that during glacial times, tropical forests receded into restricted regions, wherein tropical forest animals were able to survive. After the glaciers receded, the forests spread again and the forest animals dispersed across the landscape. These restricted forested regions are called refugia. Because of the extended separation of the refugia, it is thought that animals and plants within would evolve and become distinct from those in other refugia.

This paper looks at a group of tiny deer called duikers. These deer live only in the thick forests of Africa. Through the study of fossil and modern DNA from duikers, these scientists studied the regional and subtle differences in DNA to attempt to prove or disprove the hypothesis that refugia existed in central Africa.

Why does it matter?

If the refugium hypothesis is correct, this will have a direct impact on our understanding of the drivers of evolution.

Why did I read this?

I wrote a paper once (with my postdoc advisor, Bruce MacFadden) discussing the potential of refugia in Miocene Panama. I will always have an interest in refugia because of this. I also spent my entire postdoc thinking about climate and environmental change during glacial times. And, I’ve been working on a Pleistocene cave site, Natural Trap Cave, for a while now. So basically, this paper tickles all of my scientific interests.

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