West African Phylogeography

The rainforest of West Africa is a center of biological diversity. There is also an alarming rate of habitat loss. In Ghana alone, natural forests have diminished to about 15% of their former cover. The expansion of savannah during the Pleistocene resulted in a patchy rainforest distribution.  We are studying comparative phylogeography of reptiles and amphibians across this dynamic landscape.

 We’ve been conducting biological surveys in West Africa over the past decade and collected thousands of specimens for genetic studies. These biodiversity studies are important for answering fundamental questions in evolutionary biology and for documenting species occurrence and diversity in areas of rapidly diminishing habitat.

The goal of this collaborative project with co-PI Matt Fujita is to identify the mechanisms of diversification and speciation in rainforests of West and Central Africa. Using the powerful inferential tools of statistical phylogeography and the data-collection strengths of next-generation sequencing, we are quantifying the demographic and speciation histories of co-distributed reptile and amphibian taxa in unprecedented detail.

Mash-up of SNP results and ecological niche models for three species in West Africa.