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  1. Abstract

    Population dynamics within species at the edge of their distributional range, including the formation of genetic structure during range expansion, are difficult to study when they have had limited time to evolve. Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) have a patchy distribution at the northern edge of their range around the Puget Sound, Washington, where they almost exclusively occur on imperiled coastal habitats. The entire region was covered by Pleistocene glaciation as recently as 16,000 years ago, suggesting that populations must have colonized these habitats relatively recently. We tested for population differentiation across this landscape using genome-wide SNPs and morphological data. A time-calibrated species tree supports the hypothesis of a post-glacial establishment and subsequent population expansion into the region. Despite a strong signal for fine-scale population genetic structure across the Puget Sound with as many as 8–10 distinct subpopulations supported by the SNP data, there is minimal evidence for morphological differentiation at this same spatiotemporal scale. Historical demographic analyses suggest that populations expanded and diverged across the region as the Cordilleran Ice Sheet receded. Population isolation, lack of dispersal corridors, and strict habitat requirements are the key drivers of population divergence in this system. These same factors may prove detrimental tomore »the future persistence of populations as they cope with increasing shoreline development associated with urbanization.

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  2. Phylogenomic investigations of biodiversity facilitate the detection of fine-scale population genetic structure and the demographic histories of species and populations. However, determining whether or not the genetic divergence measured among populations reflects species-level differentiation remains a central challenge in species delimitation. One potential solution is to compare genetic divergence between putative new species with other closely related species, sometimes referred to as a reference-based taxonomy. To be described as a new species, a population should be at least as divergent as other species. Here, we develop a reference-based taxonomy for Horned Lizards ( Phrynosoma ; 17 species) using phylogenomic data (ddRADseq data) to provide a framework for delimiting species in the Greater Short-horned Lizard species complex ( P. hernandesi ). Previous species delimitation studies of this species complex have produced conflicting results, with morphological data suggesting that P. hernandesi consists of five species, whereas mitochondrial DNA support anywhere from 1 to 10 + species. To help address this conflict, we first estimated a time-calibrated species tree for P. hernandesi and close relatives using SNP data. These results support the paraphyly of P. hernandesi; we recommend the recognition of two species to promote a taxonomy that is consistent with species monophyly.more »There is strong evidence for three populations within P. hernandesi , and demographic modeling and admixture analyses suggest that these populations are not reproductively isolated, which is consistent with previous morphological analyses that suggest hybridization could be common. Finally, we characterize the population-species boundary by quantifying levels of genetic divergence for all 18 Phrynosoma species. Genetic divergence measures for western and southern populations of P. hernandesi failed to exceed those of other Phrynosoma species, but the relatively small population size estimated for the northern population causes it to appear as a relatively divergent species. These comparisons underscore the difficulties associated with putting a reference-based approach to species delimitation into practice. Nevertheless, the reference-based approach offers a promising framework for the consistent assessment of biodiversity within clades of organisms with similar life histories and ecological traits.« less