Contemporary genetic structure of an endemic freshwater turtle reflects Miocene orogenesis of New Guinea (vol 111, pg 192, 2014)

Arthur Georges, Xiuwen Zhang, Peter Unmack, Brendan N. Reid, Minh Le, William P. Mccord

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    The island of New Guinea lies in one of the most tectonically active regions in the world and has long provided
    outstanding opportunity for studies of biogeography. Several chelid turtles, of clear Gondwanal origin, occur in New
    Guinea; all species except one, the endemic Elseya novaeguineae, are restricted to the lowlands south of the Central
    Ranges. Elseya novaeguineae is found throughout New Guinea. We use mitochondrial and nuclear gene variation
    among populations of E. novaeguineae throughout its range to test hypotheses of recent extensive dispersal versus
    more ancient persistence in New Guinea. Its genetic structure bears the signature of Miocene vicariance events.
    The date of the divergence between a Birds Head (Kepala Burung) clade and clades north and south of the Central
    Ranges is estimated to be 19.8 Mya [95% highest posterior density (HPD) interval of 13.3–26.8 Mya] and the date
    between the northern and southern clades is estimated to be slightly more recent at 17.4 Mya (95% HPD interval
    of 11.0–24.5 Mya). The distribution of this endemic species is best explained by persistent occupation (or early
    invasion and dispersal) and subsequent isolation initiated by the dramatic landform changes that were part of the
    Miocene history of the island of New Guinea, rather than as a response to the contemporary landscape of an
    exceptionally effective disperser. The driving influence on genetic structure appears to have been isolation arising
    from a combination of: (1) the early uplift of the Central Ranges and establishment of a north-south drainage
    divide; (2) development of the Langguru Fold Belt; (3) the opening of Cenderawasih Bay; and (4) the deep waters
    of the Aru Trough and Cenderawasih Bay that come close to the current coastline to maintain isolation of the Birds
    Head through periods of sea level minima (−135 m). The dates of divergence of turtle populations north and south
    of the ranges predate the telescopic uplift of the central ranges associated with oblique subduction of the Australian
    Plate beneath the Pacific Plate. Their isolation was probably associated with earlier uplift and drainage isolation
    driven by the accretion of island terranes to the northern boundary of the Australian craton that occurred earlier
    than the oblique subduction. The opening of Cenderawasih Bay is too recent (6 Mya) to have initiated the isolation
    of the Birds Head populations from those of the remainder of New Guinea, although its deep waters will have
    served to sustain the isolation through successive sea level changes. The molecular evidence suggests that the
    Birds Head docked with New Guinea some time before the Central Ranges emerged as a barrier to turtle dispersal.
    Overall, deep genetic structure of the species complex reflects events and processes that occurred during Miocene,
    whereas structure within each clade across the New Guinea landscape relates to Pliocene and Pleistocene
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)192-208
    JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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