African bushpigs exhibit porous species boundaries and appeared in Madagascar concurrently with human arrival

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Several African mammals exhibit a phylogeographic pattern where closely related taxa are split between West/Central and East/Southern Africa, but their evolutionary relationships and histories remain controversial. Bushpigs (Potamochoerus larvatus) and red river hogs (P. porcus) are recognised as separate species due to morphological distinctions, a perceived lack of interbreeding at contact, and putatively old divergence times, but historically, they were considered conspecific. Moreover, the presence of Malagasy bushpigs as the sole large terrestrial mammal shared with the African mainland raises intriguing questions about its origin and arrival in Madagascar. Analyses of 67 whole genomes revealed a genetic continuum between the two species, with putative signatures of historical gene flow, variable F ST values, and a recent divergence time (<500,000 years). Thus, our study challenges key arguments for splitting Potamochoerus into two species and suggests their speciation might be incomplete. Our findings also indicate that Malagasy bushpigs diverged from southern African populations and underwent a limited bottleneck 1000-5000 years ago, concurrent with human arrival in Madagascar. These results shed light on the evolutionary history of an iconic and widespread African mammal and provide insight into the longstanding biogeographic puzzle surrounding the bushpig’s presence in Madagascar.

Original languageEnglish
Article number172
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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