The interplay of spatial and climatic landscapes in the genetic distribution of a South American parrot

Juan F. Masello*, Valeria Montano, Petra Quillfeldt, Soňa Nuhlíčková, Martin Wikelski, Yoshan Moodley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Our aim was to understand the interplay of heterogeneous climatic and spatial landscapes in shaping the distribution of nuclear microsatellite variation in burrowing parrots, Cyanoliseus patagonus. Given the marked phenotypic differences between populations of burrowing parrots we hypothesized an important role of geographical as well climatic heterogeneity in the population structure of this species. Location: Southern South America. Methods: We applied a landscape genetics approach to investigate the explicit patterns of genetic spatial autocorrelation based on both geography and climate using spatial principal component analysis (sPCA). This necessitated a novel statistical estimation of the species climatic landscape, considering temperature- and precipitation-based variables separately to evaluate their weight in shaping the distribution of genetic variation in our model system. Results: Geographical and climatic heterogeneity successfully explained molecular variance in burrowing parrots. sPCA divided the species distribution into two main areas, Patagonia and the pre-Andes, which were connected by an area of geographical and climatic transition. Moreover, sPCA revealed cryptic and conservation-relevant genetic structure: the pre-Andean populations and the transition localities were each divided into two groups, each management units for conservation. Main conclusions: sPCA, a method originally developed for spatial genetics, allowed us to unravel the genetic structure related to spatial and climatic landscapes and to visualize these patterns in landscape space. These novel climatic inferences underscore the importance of our modified sPCA approach in revealing how climatic variables can drive cryptic patterns of genetic structure, making the approach potentially useful in the study of any species distributed over a climatically heterogeneous landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077-1090
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Argentina
  • Aves
  • Burrowing parrot
  • Chile
  • Climatic landscape
  • Cyanoliseus patagonus
  • Genetic structure
  • Psittaciformes
  • Spatial landscape
  • Spatial principal component analysis


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