Nat Commun 13 (1) 268 [2022-01-12; online 2022-01-12]
Tropical mountains harbor exceptional concentrations of Earth's biodiversity. In topographically complex landscapes, montane species typically inhabit multiple mountainous regions, but are absent in intervening lowland environments. Here we report a comparative analysis of genome-wide DNA polymorphism data for population pairs from eighteen Indo-Pacific bird species from the Moluccan islands of Buru and Seram and from across the island of New Guinea. We test how barrier strength and relative elevational distribution predict population differentiation, rates of historical gene flow, and changes in effective population sizes through time. We find population differentiation to be consistently and positively correlated with barrier strength and a species' altitudinal floor. Additionally, we find that Pleistocene climate oscillations have had a dramatic influence on the demographics of all species but were most pronounced in regions of smaller geographic area. Surprisingly, even the most divergent taxon pairs at the highest elevations experience gene flow across barriers, implying that dispersal between montane regions is important for the formation of montane assemblages.