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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Demographic history and divergence of sibling grouse species inferred from whole genome sequencing reveal past effects of climate change

Song, Kai; Gao, Bin; Halvarsson, Peter; Fang, Yun; Klaus, Siegfried; Jiang, Ying-Xin; Swenson, Jon E.; Sun, Yue-Hua; Hoglund, Jacob


Background The boreal forest is one of the largest biomes on earth, supporting thousands of species. The global climate fluctuations in the Quaternary, especially the ice ages, had a significant influence on the distribution of boreal forest, as well as the divergence and evolution of species inhabiting this biome. To understand the possible effects of on-going and future climate change it would be useful to reconstruct past population size changes and relate such to climatic events in the past. We sequenced the genomes of 32 individuals from two forest inhabiting bird species, Hazel Grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) and Chinese Grouse (T. sewerzowi) and three representatives of two outgroup species from Europe and China. Results We estimated the divergence time of Chinese Grouse and Hazel Grouse to 1.76 (0.46-3.37) MYA. The demographic history of different populations in these two sibling species was reconstructed, and showed that peaks and bottlenecks of effective population size occurred at different times for the two species. The northern Qilian population of Chinese Grouse became separated from the rest of the species residing in the south approximately 250,000 years ago and have since then showed consistently lower effective population size than the southern population. The Chinese Hazel Grouse population had a higher effective population size at the peak of the Last Glacial Period (approx. 300,000 years ago) than the European population. Both species have decreased recently and now have low effective population sizes. Conclusions Combined with the uplift history and reconstructed climate change during the Quaternary, our results support that cold-adapted grouse species diverged in response to changes in the distribution of palaeo-boreal forest and the formation of the Loess Plateau. The combined effects of climate change and an increased human pressure impose major threats to the survival and conservation of both species.


Boreal forest; Demographic history; Genomics; Ice age; Climate change; Qinghai-Tibetan plateau

Published in

BMC ecology and evolution
2021, Volume: 21, number: 1, article number: 194Publisher: BMC

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Climate Research
    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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