The glacial refugia paradigm has been broadly applied to patterns of species dynamics and population diversification. However, recent geological studies have demonstrated striking Pleistocene climate changes in currently semiarid northeastern Brazil at time intervals much more frequent than the climatic oscillations associated with glacial and interglacial periods. These geomorphic data documented recurrent pulses of wet regimes in the past 210,000 years that correlate with climate anomalies affecting multiple continents. While analyzing DNA sequences of two mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b and NADH-dehydrogenase subunit 2) and one nuclear marker (cellular-myelocytomatosis proto-oncogene) in the forest-associated frogs Proceratophrys boiei and Ischnocnema gr. ramagii, we found evidence of biological responses consistent with these pluvial maxima events. Sampled areas included old, naturally isolated forest enclaves within the semiarid Caatinga, as well as recent man-made fragments of humid coastal Atlantic forest. Results show that mtDNA lineages in enclave populations are monophyletic or nearly so, whereas nonenclave populations are polyphyletic and more diverse. The studied taxa show evidence of demographic expansions at times that match phases of pluvial maxima inferred from geological data. Divergence times between several populations fall within comparatively drier intervals suggested by geomorphology. Mitochondrial and nuclear data show local populations to be genetically structured, with some high levels of differentiation that suggest the need of further taxonomic work.
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Vol. 61 • No. 12