Tertiary geological events and Quaternary climatic fluctuations have been proposed as important factors of speciation in the North American flora and fauna. Few studies, however, have rigorously tested hypotheses regarding the specific factors driving divergence of taxa. Here, we test explicit speciation hypotheses by correlating geologic events with divergence times among species in the continentally distributed trilling chorus frogs (Pseudacris). In particular, we ask whether marine inundation of the Mississippi Embayment, uplift of the Appalachian Mountains, or modification of the ancient Teays-Mahomet River system contributed to speciation. To examine the plausibility of ancient rivers causing divergence, we tested whether modern river systems inhibit gene flow. Additionally, we compared the effects of Quaternary climatic factors (glaciation and aridification) on levels of genetic variation. Divergence time estimates using penalized likelihood and coalescent approaches indicate that the major lineages of chorus frogs diversified during the Tertiary, and also exclude Quaternary climate change as a factor in speciation of chorus frogs. We show the first evidence that inundation of the Mississippi Embayment contributed to speciation. We reject the hypotheses that Cenozoic uplift of the Appalachians and that diversion of the Teays-Mahomet River contributed to speciation in this clade. We find that by reducing gene flow, rivers have the potential to cause divergence of lineages. Finally, we demonstrate that populations in areas affected by Quaternary glaciation and aridification have reduced levels of genetic variation compared to those from more equable regions, suggesting recent colonization.
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