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Title: Lions and brown bears colonized North America in multiple synchronous waves of dispersal across the Bering Land Bridge

The Bering Land Bridge connecting North America and Eurasia was periodically exposed and inundated by oscillating sea levels during the Pleistocene glacial cycles. This land connection allowed the intermittent dispersal of animals, including humans, between Western Beringia (far northeast Asia) and Eastern Beringia (northwest North America), changing the faunal community composition of both continents. The Pleistocene glacial cycles also had profound impacts on temperature, precipitation and vegetation, impacting faunal community structure and demography. While these palaeoenvironmental impacts have been studied in many large herbivores from Beringia (e.g., bison, mammoths, horses), the Pleistocene population dynamics of the diverse guild of carnivorans present in the region are less well understood, due to their lower abundances. In this study, we analyse mitochondrial genome data from ancient brown bears (Ursus arctos;n = 103) and lions (Pantheraspp.;n = 39), two megafaunal carnivorans that dispersed into North America during the Pleistocene. Our results reveal striking synchronicity in the population dynamics of Beringian lions and brown bears, with multiple waves of dispersal across the Bering Land Bridge coinciding with glacial periods of low sea levels, as well as synchronous local extinctions in Eastern Beringia during Marine Isotope Stage 3. The evolutionary histories of these two taxa underline the crucial biogeographical role of the Bering Land Bridge in the distribution, turnover and maintenance of megafaunal populations in North America.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Molecular Ecology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 6407-6421
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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