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We specifically investigate how climate change associated with the end of the last glacial period affected Pygoscelis penguin populations, and we then compare these results with analyses from the literature about their responses to current climate change. In this region, Adélie and chinstrap penguins have a diet dominated by Antarctic krill during the breeding season, whilst gentoo penguins have a more variable diet feeding on varying proportions of krill, fish and small amounts of squid We sequenced a fragment of the hypervariable region of the mitochondrial control region (HVR1) from colonies of each species spanning their entire latitudinal ranges and main breeding sites around the Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Arc (Fig. We sequenced a 316 base pair (bp) fragment from 249 gentoo penguins, a 465 bp fragment from 166 chinstrap penguins and a 601 bp fragment from 122 Adélie penguins (Table 1 and Supplementary Table S1 online; Gen Bank accession numbers: KJ646026-KJ646562).Although the length of the fragment sequenced in gentoo penguins was short compared to most studies of avian phylogeography, the proportion of variable sites was very high, giving sufficient information content for this study.

The representatives of the “Ross Sea” and “Antarctic” lineages (with Gen Bank accession numbers) are indicated on the Adélie network.Climate change is a major threat to global biodiversity. Investigating past species responses to climatic events can distinguish natural from anthropogenic impacts.Climate change produces ‘winners’, species that benefit from these events and ‘losers’, species that decline or become extinct.The maintenance of genetic diversity underpins conservation genetics.Here we use molecular techniques to characterize the demographic history and population structure of the Pygoscelis penguins breeding around the Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Arc. papua) penguins are sympatric in this region, with overlapping breeding colonies in some areas and all three species show high levels of breeding site fidelity.Bayesian skyline plots, which show the effective female population sizes over time, also show this latitudinal pattern (Fig. Northern gentoos, breeding the furthest north, have expanded the least, Southern gentoos which breed slightly further south have expanded to a greater extent and chinstraps and Adélies, breeding the furthest south, have expanded the most.

Figure 3 (bottom panel) also plots Antarctic temperature anomalies for the past 30 kyr.

Colours represent the populations where the haplotype was sampled, according to symbols on Figure 1.

Black scale bar shows one mutation in gentoo and chinstrap penguins; blue scale bar shows one mutation in Adélie penguins; broken line shows 25 mutational steps. Using a Bayesian coalescent framework implemented in BEAST we estimated the time to the most recent common ancestor of Northern and Southern gentoo penguins.

(Euphausia superba), the main prey item for most meso- and top-predators in the Antarctic ecosystem.

However the Antarctic climate has oscillated dramatically throughout the last 50 million years (Myr).

Each sample location is coloured independently, and is consistent with Figure 2. = 0.62, p = 0.000) with all colonies being genetically differentiated from one another (Supplementary Table S2 online) and showing isolation by distance (r = 0.63, p = 0.003).