Systematics and biogeography of the Atlantic Forest endemic genus Juliomys (Rodentia: Cricetidae): a test of diversification hypothesis using mitochondrial data

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The Atlantic Forest harbors a large species richness and high levels of endemism, but the processes that shaped its biodiversity are poorly studied, especially for mammals. Among them are the endemic mice Juliomys, which comprise forest dwellers distributed in southeastern and southern Brazil, northeastern Argentina, and eastern Paraguay. In this study, we investigate the phylogenetic relationships among species and perform phylogeographic analyses to evaluate the population structure and demographic scenarios through mitochondrial gene cytochrome b sequences. We investigate three hypotheses of diversification (forest refuges, montane isolate, and geomorphological events) to understand the evolution of the Juliomys species. Phylogenetic analyses recovered five clades/lineages, four of which are congruent with species currently recognized. The fifth lineage expands the range of the genus 659 km to the north and may represent a new species. The observed demographic and geographic structure of genetic diversity does not match the forest refuge hypothesis as mechanism to explain the diversification in Juliomys. Our results recovered J. rimofrons and J. ximenezi as sister species, supporting predictions of montane isolate hypothesis. We also detected a shallow genetic structure in J. pictipes and J. ossitenuis. Both phylogeographic breaks were congruent with limits of the São Paulo Basin, an area that has undergone Neogene reactivations of tectonic faults. It is suggested that geomorphological events led to a deformed landscape that influenced the dynamics of sedimentary basins and promoted an incipient population structure in J. pictipes and J. ossitenuis. Our findings demonstrate that the divergences whithin Juliomys species occurred during the Quaternary, too recently to have produced strong geographic structure.
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