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© 2020 Elsevier Inc. The Neotropics show a wealth of distributional patterns shared by many co-distributed species. A distinctive pattern is the so-called “circum-Amazonian distribution,” which is observed in species that do not occur in Amazonia but rather along a belt of forested habitats spanning south and east of Amazonia, the Andean foothills, and often into the Venezuelan Coastal Range and the Tepuis. Although this pattern is widespread across animals and plants, its underlying biogeographic mechanisms remain poorly understood. The Variable Antshrike (Thamnophilus caerulescens) is a sexually dimorphic suboscine passerine that exhibits extreme plumage variation and occurs along the southern portion of the circum-Amazonian belt. We describe broad-scale phylogeographic patterns of T. caerulescens and assess its demographic history using DNA sequences from the mitochondrion and ultraconserved elements (UCEs). We identified three genomic clusters: a) northern Atlantic Forest; b) southeastern Cerrado and central-southern Atlantic Forest, and c) Chaco and Andes. Our results were consistent with Pleistocene divergence followed by gene flow, mainly between the latter two clusters. There were no genetic signatures of rapid population expansions or bottlenecks. The population from the northern Atlantic Forest was the most genetically divergent group within the species. The demographic history of T. caerulescens was probably affected by series of humid and dry periods throughout the Quaternary that generated subtle population expansions and contractions allowing the intermittent connection of habitats along the circum-Amazonian belt. Recognizing the dynamic history of climate-mediated forest expansions, contractions, and connections during the South American Pleistocene is central toward a mechanistic understanding of circum-Amazonian distributions.

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Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution