Biodiversity in the tropics is disproportionately high compared to other habitats, and also under disproportionate threat from human impact. It is necessary to understand how this diversity evolved and how it is partitioned across space in order to preserve it. In this thesis I construct phylogenies of tropical forest dependent vertebrates from Southeast Asia and the islands of the Sunda shelf, a region referred to as Sundaland. I focus on the tree squirrels (genus Sundasciurus) and Asian barbets (Aves: Family Megalaimidae), two taxa with similar ecological characteristics. I use these phylogenies to test hypotheses that have been put forward to explain high levels of tropical diversity including the Pleistocene pump and museum hypotheses. I also use phylogenies to elucidate phylogeographic patterns within the region. I find no evidence for an increase in speciation in the Pleistocene, but I do find within species structure that dates to this period. Common phylogeographic patterns were identified between many forest dependent vertebrates that suggest that populations on the island of Sumatra are generally more closely related to Malay Peninsula populations than to populations on Borneo.
From a methodological viewpoint we propose careful usage of universal primers in ancient DNA studies because of our finding of increased risk of amplifying pseudogenes of the mtDNA.