Title

North-facing slopes and elevation shape asymmetric genetic structure in the range-restricted salamander Plethodon shenandoah

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2019

Abstract

© 2019 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Species with narrow environmental tolerances are often distributed within fragmented patches of suitable habitat, and dispersal among these subpopulations can be difficult to directly observe. Genetic data can help quantify gene flow between localities, which is especially important for vulnerable species with a disjunct range. The Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) is a federally endangered species known only from three mountaintops in Virginia, USA. To reconstruct the evolutionary history and population connectivity of this species, we generated both mitochondrial and nuclear data using sequence capture from individuals collected across all three mountaintops. Applying population and landscape genetic methods, we found strong population structure that was independent of geographic distance. Both the nuclear markers and mitochondrial genomes indicated a deep split between the most southern population and the genetically similar central and northern populations. Although there was some mitochondrial haplotype-splitting between the central and northern populations, there was admixture in nuclear markers. This is indicative of either a recent split or current male-biased dispersal among mountain isolates. Models of landscape resistance found that dispersal across north-facing slopes at mid-elevation levels best explain the observed genetic structure among populations. These unexpected results highlight the importance of incorporating landscape features in understanding and predicting the movement and fragmentation of this range-restricted salamander species across space.

Publication Name

Ecology and Evolution

Volume Number

9

First Page

5094

Last Page

5105

Issue Number

9

DOI

10.1002/ece3.5064

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