Biogeography and speciation of southwestern Australian frogs

Danielle Edwards

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    [Truncated abstract] Southwestern Australia is a global biodiversity hotspot. The region contains a high number of endemic species, ranging from Gondwanan relicts to more recently evolved plant and animal species. Biogeographic models developed primarily for plants suggest a prominent role of Quaternary climatic fluctuations in the rampant speciation of endemic plants. Those models were not based on explicit spatial analysis of genetic structure, did not estimate divergence dates and may be a poor predictor of patterns in endemic vertebrates. Myobatrachid frogs have featured heavily in the limited investigations of the biogeography of the regions fauna. Myobatrachid frogs are diverse in southwestern Australia, and while we know they have speciated in situ, we know little about the temporal and spatial patterning of speciation events. In order to gain insight into the biogeographic history and potential speciation patterns of Myobatrachid frogs in the southwest I conducted a comparative phylogeography of four frog species spanning three life history strategies. I aimed to: 1) assess the biogeographic history of individual species, 2) determine where patterns of regional diversity exist using a comparative framework, 3) determine whether congruent patterns across species enable the development of explicit biogeographic hypotheses for frogs, and 4) compare patterns of diversity in plants with the models I developed for frogs. I conducted fine-scale intraspecific phylogeographies on four species. ... Geocrinia leai: deep divergences, coincident with late Miocene arid onset, divide this species into western and southeast coastal lineages, with a third only found within the Shannon-Gardner River catchments. Phylogeographic history within each lineage has been shaped by climatic fluctuations from the Pliocene through to the present. Arenophryne shows the first evidence of geological activity in speciation of a Shark Bay endemic. Divergence patterns between the High Rainfall and Southeast Coastal Provinces within C. georgiana are consistent with patterns between Litoria moorei and L. cyclorhynchus and plant biogeographic regions. Subdivision between drainage systems along the southern coast (in M. nichollsi, G. leai and the G. rosea species complex) reflect the relative importance of distinct catchments as refuges during arid maxima, similarly the northern Darling Escarpment is identified as a potential refugium (C. georgiana and G. leai). Divergences in Myobatrachid frogs are far older than those inferred for plants with the late Miocene apparently an important time for speciation of southwestern frogs. Speciation of Myobatrachids broadly relates to the onset of aridity in Australia in the late Miocene, with the exception of earlier/contemporaneous geological activity in Arenophryne. The origins of subsequent intraspecific phylogeographic structure are coincident with subsequent climatic fluctuations and correlated landscape evolution. Divergence within frogs in the forest system may be far older than the Pleistocene models developed for plants because of the heavy reliance on wet systems by relictual frog species persisting in the southwestern corner of Australia.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


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