Dating the time of divergence and understanding speciation processes are central to the study of the evolutionary history of organisms but are notoriously difficult. The difficulty is largely rooted in variations in the ancestral population size or in the genealogy variation across loci. To depict the speciation processes and divergence histories of three monophyletic Takydromus species endemic to Taiwan, we sequenced 20 nuclear loci and combined with one mitochondrial locus published in GenBank. They were analysed by a multispecies coalescent approach within a Bayesian framework. Divergence dating based on the gene tree approach showed high variation among loci, and the divergence was estimated at an earlier date than when derived by the species-tree approach. To test whether variations in the ancestral population size accounted for the majority of this variation, we conducted computer inferences using isolation-with-migration (IM) and approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) frameworks. The results revealed that gene flow during the early stage of speciation was strongly favoured over the isolation model, and the initiation of the speciation process was far earlier than the dates estimated by gene- and species-based divergence dating. Due to their limited dispersal ability, it is suggested that geographical isolation may have played a major role in the divergence of these Takydromus species. Nevertheless, this study reveals a more complex situation and demonstrates that gene flow during the speciation process cannot be overlooked and may have a great impact on divergence dating. By using multilocus data and incorporating Bayesian coalescence approaches, we provide a more biologically realistic framework for delineating the divergence history of Takydromus.
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