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Recent diversification of a marine genus (Tursiops spp.) tracks habitat preference and environmental change

Moura, A.E.; Nielsen, S.C.A.; Vilstrup, J.T.; Moreno-Mayar, J.V.; Gilbert, M.T.P.; Gray, H.; Natoli, A.; Möller, L.; Hoelzel, A.R.

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A.E. Moura

S.C.A. Nielsen

J.T. Vilstrup

J.V. Moreno-Mayar

M.T.P. Gilbert

H. Gray

A. Natoli

L. Möller


Understanding the evolution of diversity and the resulting systematics in marine systems is confounded by the lack of clear boundaries in oceanic habitats, especially for highly mobile species like marine mammals. Dolphin populations and sibling species often show differentiation between coastal and offshore habitats, similar to the pelagic/littoral or benthic differentiation seen for some species of fish. Here we test the hypothesis that lineages within the polytypic genus Tursiops track past changes in the environment reflecting ecological drivers of evolution facilitated by habitat release. We used a known recent time point for calibration (the opening of the Bosphorus) and whole mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) sequences for high phylogenetic resolution. The pattern of lineage formation suggested an origin in Australasia and several early divisions involving forms currently inhabiting coastal habitats. Radiation in pelagic environments was relatively recent, and was likely followed by a return to coastal habitat in some regions. The timing of some nodes defining different ecotypes within the genus clustered near the two most recent interglacial transitions. A signal for an increase in diversification was also seen for dates after the last glacial maximum. Together these data suggest the tracking of habitat preference during geographic expansions, followed by transition points reflecting habitat shifts, which were likely associated with periods of environmental change.


Moura, A., Nielsen, S., Vilstrup, J., Moreno-Mayar, J., Gilbert, M., Gray, H., …Hoelzel, A. (2013). Recent diversification of a marine genus (Tursiops spp.) tracks habitat preference and environmental change. Systematic Biology, 62(6), 865-877.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Nov 1, 2013
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2013
Publicly Available Date Jun 9, 2014
Journal Systematic Biology
Print ISSN 1063-5157
Electronic ISSN 1076-836X
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 62
Issue 6
Pages 865-877


Accepted Journal Article (952 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Systematic Biology following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Andre E. Moura, Sandra C. A. Nielsen, Julia T. Vilstrup, J. Victor Moreno-Mayar, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Howard W. I. Gray, Ada Natoli, Luciana Möller, and A. Rus Hoelzel<br /> Recent Diversification of a Marine Genus (Tursiops spp.) Tracks Habitat Preference and Environmental Change<br /> Systematic Biology (2013) 62 (6): 865-877 is available online at:

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