Mitochondrial DNA diversity and historical biogeography of a wet forest-restricted frog (Litoria pearsoniana) from mid-east Australia

Authors

  • K. McGUIGAN,

    1. Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management and Department of Zoology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld, Australia, 4072 ,
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  • K. McDONALD,

    1. Queensland Department of Environment, Wet Tropics District Office, PO Box 834, Atherton, QLD, Australia, 4883, ,
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  • K. PARRIS,

    1. Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia, 0200
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  • C. MORITZ

    1. Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management and Department of Zoology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld, Australia, 4072 ,
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C. Moritz Tel.: +61-7-3365-3382; Fax: +61-7-3365-1655; E-mail: cmoritz@zoology.uq.edu.au

Abstract

MtDNA sequencing was used to investigate the genetic population structure of Litoria pearsoniana, a wet forest-restricted hylid frog, endemic to southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales, Australia. L. pearsoniana is regarded as endangered under Queensland legislation. Significant genetic divergence among populations of frogs from different rainforest isolates was identified, but the lack of reciprocal monophyly among adjacent isolates suggests this is the result of a relatively recent disruption to gene flow. A paired catchment study within a single rainforest isolate, the Conondale Range, revealed no substantial genetic structuring, indicating the occurrence of terrestrial dispersal among nearby streams either in the recent past or currently. Two major reciprocally monophyletic clades of mtDNA alleles were identified. These corresponded to two geographical regions separated by the Brisbane River valley; one consisting of the Conondale and D’Aguilar Ranges, and the other of the southern isolates in the Main, Border and Gibraltar Ranges. Sequence divergence between the two regions was more consistent with a late Miocene or Pliocene rather than late Pleistocene separation, and is similar to that found among phylogeographic divisions of rainforest reptiles and amphibians in north Queensland rainforests. The molecular evidence for long-term separation of these two regions is corroborated by the pattern of species turnover in the distributions of species of rainforest-restricted amphibians and reptiles. Bioclimatic modelling suggests that appropriate conditions for L. pearsoniana would have been restricted to isolated refuges in each phylogeographic division under cooler and drier climates, such as predicted for the last glacial maximum. Currently isolated montane areas may have been connected transiently during the past 2000 years. Identification of long-term zoogeographic divisions among southeast Queensland rainforest herpetofauna has important implications for conservation and management. Conservation management of L. pearsoniana should be applied at the scale of major rainforest isolates and the conservation status of the species should be assessed independently north and south of the historical division.

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