Understanding the evolutionary history of diversifying lineages and the delineation of evolutionarily significant units and species remains major challenges for evolutionary biology. Low‐cost representational sampling of the genome for single nucleotide polymorphisms shows great potential at the temporal scales that are typically the focus of species delimitation and phylogeography. We apply these markers to a case study of a freshwater turtle, Emydura macquarii, whose systematics has so far defied resolution, to bring to light a dynamic system of substantive allopatric lineages diverging on independent evolutionary trajectories, but held back in the process of speciation by low level and episodic exchange of alleles across drainage divides on various timescales. In the context of low‐level episodic gene flow, speciation is often reticulate, rather than a bifurcating process. We argue that species delimitation needs to take into account the pattern of ancestry and descent of diverging lineages in allopatry together with the recent and contemporary processes of dispersal and gene flow that retard and obscure that divergence. Underpinned by a strong focus on lineage diagnosability, this combined approach provides a means for addressing the challenges of incompletely isolated populations with uncommon, but recurrent gene flow in studies of species delimitation, a situation likely to be frequently encountered. Taxonomic decisions in cases of allopatry often require subjective judgements. Our strategy, which adds an additional level of objectivity before that subjectivity is applied, reduces the risk of taxonomic inflation that can accompany lineage approaches to species delimitation.
Sex determination in animals is amazingly plastic. Vertebrates display contrasting strategies ranging from complete genetic control of sex (genotypic sex determination) to environmentally determined sex (for example, temperature-dependent sex determination)1. Phylogenetic analyses suggest frequent evolutionary transitions between genotypic and temperature-dependent sex determination in environmentally sensitive lineages, including reptiles2. These transitions are thought to involve a genotypic system becoming sensitive to temperature, with sex determined by gene–environment interactions3. Most mechanistic models of transitions invoke a role for sex reversal3,4,5. Sex reversal has not yet been demonstrated in nature for any amniote, although it occurs in fish6 and rarely in amphibians7,8. Here we make the first report of reptile sex reversal in the wild, in the Australian bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), and use sex-reversed animals to experimentally induce a rapid transition from genotypic to temperature-dependent sex determination. Controlled mating of normal males to sex-reversed females produces viable and fertile offspring whose phenotypic sex is determined solely by temperature (temperature-dependent sex determination). The W sex chromosome is eliminated from this lineage in the first generation. The instantaneous creation of a lineage of ZZ temperature-sensitive animals reveals a novel, climate-induced pathway for the rapid transition between genetic and temperature-dependent sex determination, and adds to concern about adaptation to rapid global climate change.