Independent demographic responses to climate change among temperate and tropical milksnakes (Colubridae: Genus Lampropeltis)

Sara Ruane, Omar Torres-Carvajal, Frank T. Burbrink

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13 Scopus citations


The effects of Late Quaternary climate change have been examined for many temperate New World taxa, but the impact of Pleistocene glacial cycles on Neotropical taxa is less well understood, specifically with respect to changes in population demography. Here, we examine historical demographic trends for six species of milksnake with representatives in both the temperate and tropical Americas to determine if species share responses to climate change as a taxon or by area (i.e., temperate versus tropical environments). Using a multilocus dataset, we test for the demographic signature of population expansion and decline using non-genealogical summary statistics, as well as coalescent-based methods. In addition, we determine whether range sizes are correlated with effective population sizes for milksnakes. Results indicate that there are no identifiable trends with respect to demographic response based on location, and that species responded to changing climates independently, with tropical taxa showing greater instability. There is also no correlation between range size and effective population size, with the largest population size belonging to the species with the smallest geographic distribution. Our study highlights the importance of not generalizing the demographic histories of taxa by region and further illustrates that the New World tropics may not have been a stable refuge during the Pleistocene.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0128543
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - 17 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Ruane et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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