Comparative phylogeography in rainforest trees from Lower Guinea, Africa uri icon


  • Comparative phylogeography is an effective approach to assess the evolutionary history of biological communities. We used comparative phylogeography in fourteen tree taxa from Lower Guinea (Atlantic Equatorial Africa) to test for congruence with two simple evolutionary scenarios based on physio-climatic features 1) the W-E environmental gradient and 2) the N-S seasonal inversion, which determine climatic and seasonality differences in the region. We sequenced the trnC-ycf6 plastid DNA region using a dual sampling strategy: fourteen taxa with small sample sizes (dataset 1, mean n = 16/taxon), to assess whether a strong general pattern of allele endemism and genetic differentiation emerged; and four taxonomically well-studied species with larger sample sizes (dataset 2, mean n = 109/species) to detect the presence of particular shared phylogeographic patterns. When grouping the samples into two alternative sets of two populations, W and E, vs. N and S, neither dataset exhibited a strong pattern of allelic endemism, suggesting that none of the considered regions consistently harboured older populations. Differentiation in dataset 1 was similarly strong between W and E as between N and S, with 3–5 significant FST tests out of 14 tests in each scenario. Coalescent simulations indicated that, given the power of the data, this result probably reflects idiosyncratic histories of the taxa, or a weak common differentiation pattern (possibly with population substructure) undetectable across taxa in dataset 1. Dataset 2 identified a common genetic break separating the northern and southern populations of Greenwayodendron suaveolens subsp. suaveolens var. suaveolens, Milicia excelsa, Symphonia globulifera and Trichoscypha acuminata in Lower Guinea, in agreement with differentiation across the N–S seasonal inversion. Our work suggests that currently recognized tree taxa or suspected species complexes can contain strongly differentiated genetic lineages, which could lead to misinterpretation of phylogeographic patterns. Therefore the evolutionary processes of such taxa require further study in African tropical rainforests

publication date

  • 2015