Open Access Research article

A multi-locus species phylogeny of African forest duikers in the subfamily Cephalophinae: evidence for a recent radiation in the Pleistocene

Anne R Johnston and Nicola M Anthony*

Author Affiliations

University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, 70148, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:120  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-120

Published: 23 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Duikers in the subfamily Cephalophinae are a group of tropical forest mammals believed to have first originated during the late Miocene. However, knowledge of phylogenetic relationships, pattern and timing of their subsequent radiation is poorly understood. Here we present the first multi-locus phylogeny of this threatened group of tropical artiodactyls and use a Bayesian uncorrelated molecular clock to estimate divergence times.

Results

A total of 4152 bp of sequence data was obtained from two mitochondrial genes and four nuclear introns. Phylogenies were estimated using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian analysis of concatenated mitochondrial, nuclear and combined datasets. A relaxed molecular clock with two fossil calibration points was used to estimate divergence times. The first was based on the age of the split between the two oldest subfamilies within the Bovidae whereas the second was based on the earliest known fossil appearance of the Cephalophinae and molecular divergence time estimates for the oldest lineages within this group. Findings indicate strong support for four major lineages within the subfamily, all of which date to the late Miocene/early Pliocene. The first of these to diverge was the dwarf duiker genus Philantomba, followed by the giant, eastern and western red duiker lineages, all within the genus Cephalophus. While these results uphold the recognition of Philantomba, they do not support the monotypic savanna-specialist genus Sylvicapra, which as sister to the giant duikers leaves Cephalophus paraphyletic. BEAST analyses indicate that most sister species pairs originated during the Pleistocene, suggesting that repeated glacial cycling may have played an important role in the recent diversification of this group. Furthermore, several red duiker sister species pairs appear to be either paraphyletic (C.callipygus/C. ogilbyi and C. harveyi/C. natalensis) or exhibit evidence of mitochondrial admixture (C. nigrifrons and C. rufilatus), consistent with their recent divergence and/or possible hybridization with each other.

Conclusions

Molecular phylogenetic analyses suggest that Pleistocene-era climatic oscillations have played an important role in the speciation of this largely forest-dwelling group. Our results also reveal the most well supported species phylogeny for the subfamily to date, but also highlight several areas of inconsistency between our current understanding of duiker taxonomy and the evolutionary relationships depicted here. These findings may therefore prove particularly relevant to future conservation efforts, given that many species are presently regulated under the Convention for Trade in Endangered Species.

Keywords:
Duiker; Pleistocene refuge hypothesis; Speciation; Molecular clock; Partition; Species tree