Palaeoclimatic changes explain Anatolian mountain frog evolution: a test for alternating vicariance and dispersal events


Michael Veith. Fax: 49-6131-3923731; E-mail:


Holarctic biodiversity has been influenced by climatic fluctuations since the Pliocene. Asia Minor was one of the major corridors for postglacial invasions in the Palearctic. Today this area is characterized by an extraordinarily rich fauna with close affiliation to European, Asian and Indo-African biota. However, exact scenarios of range expansion and contraction are lacking. Using a phylogeographical approach we (i) identify monophyletic lineages among Anatolian mountain frogs and (ii) derive a spatio-temporal hypothesis for the invasion process in Anatolia. We sequenced 540 bp of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene from 40 populations of mountain frogs from Anatolia, the Elburz Mountains and the Caucasus. Our samples comprise all known species and subspecies: Rana macrocnemis macrocnemis, R. m. tavasensis, R. m. pseudodalmatina, R. camerani and R. holtzi. They include the type localities of four of these taxa. We used a nested clade analysis (NCA) to infer historical and recurrent events that account for the observed geographical distribution of haplotypes. None of the extant species is monophyletic. Based on a molecular clock calibration using homologous sequences of Western Palearctic water frogs of the same genus, we estimated that a basic radiation into three lineages c. 2 Mya was followed by several dispersal and fragmentation events. The geographical distribution of resident and widespread haplotypes allows us to infer and date scenarios of range expansion and fragmentation that are aligned with dramatic climatic oscillations that have occurred during the last 600 000 years. Consequently, Pliocene and Pleistocene climatic oscillations triggered the evolution of Anatolian mountain frogs through an interplay of vicariance and dispersal events.