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Recent colonization and expansion through the Lesser Sundas by seven amphibian and reptile species

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The Lesser Sundas Archipelago is comprised of two parallel chains of islands that extend between the Asian continental shelf (Sundaland) and Australo-Papuan continental shelf (Sahul). These islands have served as stepping stones for taxa dispersing between the Asian and Australo-Papuan biogeographical realms. While the oceanic barriers have prevented many species from colonizing the archipelago, a number of terrestrial vertebrate species have colonized the islands either by rafting/swimming or by human introduction. Here, we examine phylogeographic structure within the Lesser Sundas for three snake, two lizard and two frog species that each has a Sunda Shelf origin. These species are suspected to have recently colonized the archipelago, though all have inhabited the Lesser Sundas for over 100 years. We sequenced mtDNA from 231 samples to test whether there is sufficiently deep genetic structure within any of these taxa to reject human-mediated introduction. Additionally, we tested for genetic signatures of population expansion consistent with recent introduction and estimated the ages of Lesser Sundas clades, if any exist. Our results show little to no genetic structure between populations on different islands in five species and moderate structure in two species. Nucleotide diversity is low for all species, and the ages of the most recent common ancestor for species with monophyletic Lesser Sundas lineages date to the Holocene or late Pleistocene. These results support the hypothesis that these species entered the archipelago relatively recently and either naturally colonized or were introduced by humans to most of the larger islands in the archipelago within a short time span.

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