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Keywords:

  • conservation genetics;
  • ESU;
  • mtDNA;
  • nested clade analysis;
  • phylogeography;
  • Rana luteiventris

Abstract

The Columbia spotted frog (Rana luteiventris) has a widespread distribution in western Canada and the western US, although the southern reach of its range is highly fragmented into several isolated populations. Threats from various factors have raised concerns regarding the long-term survival of many small, isolated populations. Here, we report a study designed to determine the phylogeographic and conservation genetic parameters of R. luteiventris in the western US. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences were examined for phylogeographic structuring using phylogenetic reconstruction methods, coupled with networking and nested clade analyses. These methods permitted a distinction to be made between historic and demographic forces acting to generate geographical patterning of genetic variation. Phylogenetic analysis revealed four geographically correlated monophyletic clades. Three of these clades correspond to well-defined, nonoverlapping geographical locations in the fragmented portion of the range. The other is comprised of all samples collected from the contiguous range and includes one isolate from northern Wyoming. Networking and nested clade analyses confirmed these results and revealed that historical processes, such as range expansion and vicariance, rather than recurrent gene flow are likely responsible for observed patterns of genetic variation. A measure of genetic variation (θ = 4Neµ) revealed that R. luteiventris populations in Utah have a relatively low amount of genetic variation compared with populations in the continuous portion of the range.