The Andean uplift played important roles in the historical diversification of Neotropical organisms, both by producing new high-elevation habitats that could be colonized and by isolating organisms on either side of the mountains. Here, we present a molecular phylogeny of Thamnophlius antshrikes, a clade of 30 species whose collective distribution spans nearly the entirety of lowland habitats in tropical South America, the eastern slope foothills of the Andes, and the tepuis of northern South America. Our goal was to examine the role of the Andes in the diversification of lowland and foothill species. Using parsimony and Bayesian ancestral state reconstructions of a three-state distribution character (lowland-restricted, lowland-to-highland, highland-restricted), we found that the Andes were colonized twice independently and the tepuis once from lowland-restricted ancestors. Over the entire evolutionary history of Thamnophilus, the highest transition rates were between highland-restricted and lowland-to-highland distributions, with extremely low rates into and out of lowland-restricted distributions. This pattern suggests lowland-restricted distributions are limited not by physiological constraints, but by other forces, such as competition. These results highlight the need for additional comparative studies in elucidating processes associated with the colonization of high-elevation habitats and the differentiation of populations within them.
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Vol. 61 • No. 2