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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NEW WORLD FLYING SQUIRRELS: PHYLOGENY, BIOGEOGRAPHY, AND
 

Summary:  A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NEW WORLD FLYING
SQUIRRELS: PHYLOGENY, BIOGEOGRAPHY, AND
CONSERVATION GENETICS
BRIAN S. ARBOGAST*
Department of Biological Sciences and Vertebrate Museum, Humboldt State University,
1 Harpst Street, Arcata, CA 95521, USA
I summarize our current understanding of the evolutionary origin and biogeographic history of the New World
flying squirrels (Glaucomys). The emerging synthesis of flying squirrel systematics supports a monophyletic
origin for the group in the early Miocene followed by a divergence of New World and Eurasian flying squirrels
in the late Miocene. Today, the New World flying squirrels consist of 2 recognized species, G. sabrinus and
G. volans. These 2 species are closely associated with the northern coniferous and deciduous hardwood forest
biomes of North America, respectively, making them especially useful as biogeographic indicator species for
these 2 forest types. Molecular systematic studies have revealed the presence of 2 distinct evolutionary lineages
within G. sabrinus (a widespread Continental lineage and a more geographically restricted Pacific Coastal
lineage). Bacular morphology and data from nuclear loci suggest recent or ongoing gene flow between these 2
lineages where they meet in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Populations of G. volans from eastern North
America represent a 3rd distinct lineage within the genus. Mesoamerican flying squirrels (traditionally considered
to be southern forms of G. volans) have not been examined with molecular data and may represent 1 or more
additional lineages. From a biogeographic perspective, Quaternary climatic fluctuations and associated changes
in the location and extent of forest habitats appear to have been important factors in promoting early evolutionary

  

Source: Arbogast, Brian - Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

 

Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology