Date of this Version
Proceedings of the Royal Society, B (2012) 279: 371-378.
Traditional concepts of the Bering Land Bridge as a zone of predominantly eastward expansion from Eurasia and a staging area for subsequent colonization of lower latitudes in North America led to early inferences regarding biogeographic histories of North American faunas, many of which remain untested. Here we apply a host–parasite comparative phylogeographical (HPCP) approach to evaluate one such history, by testing competing biogeographic hypotheses for five lineages of host-specific parasites shared by the collared pika (Ochotona collaris) and American pika (Ochotona princeps) of North America. We determine whether the southern host species (O. princeps) was descended from a northern ancestor or vice versa. Three parasite phylogenies revealed patterns consistent with the hypothesis of a southern origin, which is corroborated by four additional parasite lineages restricted to O. princeps. This finding reverses the traditional narrative for the origins of North American pikas and highlights the role of dispersal from temperate North America into Beringia in structuring northern diversity considerably prior to the Holocene. By evaluating multiple parasite lineages simultaneously, the study demonstrates the power of HPCP for resolving complex biogeographic histories that are not revealed by characteristics of the host alone.