Population history and current demographic and ecological factors determine the amount of genetic variation within and the degree of differentiation among populations. Differences in the life history and ecology of codistributed species may lead to differences in hierarchical population genetic structure. Here, we compare patterns of genetic diversity and structure of two species of spiny rats in the genus Proechimys from the Rio Juruá of western Amazonian Brazil. Based on the ecological and life-history differences between the two species, we make predictions as to how they might differ in patterns of genetic diversity and structure. We use mitochondrial sequence data from the cytochrome b gene to test these predictions. Although both species maintain nearly the same number of mitochondrial haplotypes across the sampled range, they differ in levels of genetic diversity and geographic structure. Patterns of gene flow are also different between the two species with average M̂-values of nearly three in P. steerei and less than one in P. simonsi. Our initial predictions are largely upheld by the genetic data and where conflicting hypotheses arise, we suggest further studies that may allow us to distinguish among evolutionary scenarios. Separating the effects of history and ongoing demography on patterns of genetic diversity is challenging. Combining genetic analyses with field studies remains essential to disentangling these complex processes.
Corresponding Editor: J. Losos