Phylogeographic structure of the dunes sagebrush lizard, an endemic habitat specialist.
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Phylogeographic divergence and population genetic diversity within species reflect the impacts of habitat connectivity, demographics, and landscape level processes in both the recent and distant past. Characterizing patterns of differentiation across the geographic range of a species provides insight on the roles of organismal and environmental traits in evolutionary divergence and future population persistence. This is particularly true of habitat specialists where habitat availability and resource dependence may result in pronounced genetic structure as well as increased population vulnerability. We use DNA sequence data as well as microsatellite genotypes to estimate range-wide phylogeographic divergence, historical population connectivity, and historical demographics in an endemic habitat specialist, the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus). This species is found exclusively in dune blowouts and patches of open sand within the shinnery oak-sand dune ecosystem of southeastern New Mexico and adjacent Texas. We find evidence of phylogeographic structure consistent with breaks and constrictions in suitable habitat at the range-wide scale. In addition, we find support for a dynamic and variable evolutionary history across the range of S. arenicolus. Populations in the Monahans Sandhills have deeply divergent lineages consistent with long-term demographic stability. In contrast, populations in the Mescalero Sands are not highly differentiated, though we do find evidence of demographic expansion in some regions and relative demographic stability in others. Phylogeographic history and population genetic differentiation in this species has been shaped by the configuration of habitat patches within a geologically complex and historically dynamic landscape. Our findings identify regions as genetically distinctive conservation units as well as underscore the genetic and demographic history of different lineages of S. arenicolus.