Phylogenetic and geographic evidence suggest that many parthenogenetic organisms have evolved recently and have spread rapidly. These patterns play a critical role in our understanding of the relative merits of sexual versus asexual reproductive modes, yet their interpretation is often hampered by a lack of detail. Here we present a detailed phylogeographic study of a vertebrate parthenogen, the Australian gecko Heteronotia binoei, in combination with statistical and biophysical modeling of its distribution during the last glacial maximum. Parthenogenetic H. hinoei occur in the Australian and zone and have the widest range of any known vertebrate parthenogen. They are broadly sympatric with their sexual counterparts, from which they arose via hybridization. We have applied nested clade phylogeographic, effective migration, and mismatch distribution analyses to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences obtained for 319 individuals sampled throughout the known geographic ranges of two parthenogenetic mitochondrial lineages. These analyses provide strong evidence for past range expansion events from west to east across the arid zone, and for continuing eastward range expansion. Parthenogen formation and range expansion events date to the late Pleistocene, with one lineage expanding from the northwest of its present range around 240,000 years ago and the second lineage expanding from the far west around 70,000 years ago. Statistical and biophysical distribution models support these inferences of recent range expansion, with suitable climatic conditions during the last glacial maximum most likely limited to parts of the and zone north and west of much of the current ranges of these lineages. Combination of phylogeographic analyses and distribution modeling allowed considerably stronger inferences of the history of this complex than either would in isolation, illustrating the power of combining complementary analytical approaches.
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