Molecular systematics and phylogeography of the Plethodon elongatus species group: combining phylogenetic and population genetic methods to investigate species history


M. J. Mahoney. Fax: (510) 643—8238; E-mail:


Plethodon elongatus and P. stormi (Caudata: Plethodontidae) are Pacific Northwest endemic species which occur in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon. Studies on these salamanders have resulted in differing taxonomic conclusions, but the underlying historical hypotheses, at both inter- and intraspecific levels, have never been examined in a molecular framework. Here, representatives of 81 populations from throughout the range of both taxa are sequenced. Portions of three mitochondrial protein-coding genes (cytochrome b, NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4, and ATPase 6) were sequenced. Four haplotype groups with nonoverlapping geographical ranges were recovered in separate and combined analyses of the data. One clade corresponds to the distribution of P. stormi, while the remaining three comprise P. elongatus. Phylogenetic relationships among haplotype groups differ in separate analyses of the genes but converge on a well-supported topology, with P. elongatus and P. stormi as monophyletic sister taxa, in combined Maximum Parsimony and Maximum Likelihood analyses. Population genetic analyses of mismatch distributions and Tajima's D-statistic are consistent with range expansion for the largest clade within P. elongatus, covering the northern two-thirds of the species range. In contrast, the P. stormi haplotype clade and the P. elongatus clade from the southern third of the species range may have been relatively stable. Morphological boundaries between P. elongatus and P. stormi are largely congruent with mitochondrial DNA breaks and continued treatment as sister taxa is supported. Although mitochondrial DNA haplotype groups may reflect historical separation within P. elongatus, genetic barriers are incongruent with intraspecific patterns of morphological variation.