Few studies to date have investigated the impact of Pleistocene climatic oscillations on the genetic diversity of cold-adapted species. We focus on the geographic distribution of genetic diversity in a Euro-Siberian boreo-montane leaf beetle, Gonioctena pallida. We present the molecular variation from three independent gene fragments over the entire geographic range of this insect. The observed sequence variation identifies a genetic diversity hot spot in the Carpathian Mountains, in central Europe, which reveals the presence of (1) an ancestral refuge population or (2) a secondary contact zone in this area. Modeling of population evolution in a coalescent framework allowed us to favor the ancestral refuge hypothesis. These analyses suggest that the Carpathian Mountains served as a refuge for G. pallida, whereas the rest of the species distribution, that spans a large portion of Europe and Asia, experienced a dramatic reduction in genetic variation probably associated to bottlenecks and/or founder events. We estimated the time of isolation of the ancestral refuge population, using an approximate Bayesian method, to be larger than 90,000 years. If true, the current pattern of genetic variation in this cold-adapted organism was shaped by a climatic event predating by far the end of the last ice age.
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Vol. 63 • No. 10