Phylogeographic and diversification patterns of the white-nosed coati T (Nasua narica): Evidence for south-to-north colonization
White-nosed coatis (Nasua narica) are widely distributed throughout North, Central, and South America, but the patterns of temporal and spatial diversification that have contributed to this distribution are unknown. In addition, the biogeographic history of procyonid species in the Americas remains contentious. Using sequences from three mitochondrial loci (Cytochrome b, NAHD5 and 16S rRNA; 2201 bp) and genotypes from 11 microsatellite loci, we analyzed genetic diversity to determine phylogeographic patterns, genetic structure, divergence times, and gene flow among Nasua narica populations throughout the majority of the species’ range. We also estimated the ancestral geographic range of N. narica and other procyonid species. We found a high degree of genetic structure and divergence among populations that conform to five evolutionarily significant units. The most southerly distributed population (Panama) branched off much earlier (∼3.8 million years ago) than the northern populations (< 1.2 million years ago). Estimated gene flow among populations was low and mostly northwards and westwards. The phylogeographic patterns within N. narica are associated with geographic barriers and habitat shifts likely caused by Pliocene-Pleistocene climate oscillations. Significantly, our findings suggest the dispersal of N. narica was south-to-north beginning in the Pliocene, not in the opposite direction during the Pleistocene as suggested by the fossil record, and that the most recent common ancestor for coati species was most likely distributed in South or Central America six million years ago. Our study implies the possibility that the diversification of Nasua species, and other extant procyonid lineages, may have occurred in South America.