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Title: Genetic variability and the ecology of geographic range: A test of the central‐marginal hypothesis in Australian scincid lizards

For many species, both local abundance and regional occupancy are highest near the centre of their geographic distributions. One hypothesis for this pattern is that niche suitability declines with increasing distance from a species geographic centre, such that populations near range margins are characterized by reduced density and increased patchiness. In these smaller edge populations, genetic drift is more powerful, leading to the loss of genetic diversity. This simple verbal model has been formalized as the central‐marginal hypothesis, which predicts that core populations should have greater genetic diversity than edge populations. Here, we tested the central‐marginal hypothesis using a genomic data set of 25 species‐level taxa of Australian scincid lizards in the generaCtenotusandLerista. A majority of taxa in our data set showed range‐wide patterns of genetic variation consistent with central‐marginal hypothesis, and eight of 25 taxa showed significantly greater genetic diversity in the centre of their range. We then explored biological, historical, and methodological factors that might predict which taxa support the central‐marginal hypothesis. We found that taxa with the strongest evidence for range expansion were the least likely to follow predictions of the central‐marginal hypothesis. The majority of these taxa had range expansions that originated at the range edge, which led to a gradient of decreasing genetic diversity from the range edge to the core, contrary to the central‐marginal hypothesis.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Journal Name:
Molecular Ecology
Medium: X Size: p. 4242-4253
["p. 4242-4253"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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