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Calls, colours, shape, and genes: a multi-trait approach to the study of geographic variation in the Amazonian frog Allobates femoralis




Evolutionary divergence in behavioural traits related to mating may represent the initial stage of speciation. Direct selective forces are usually invoked to explain divergence in mate-recognition traits, often neglecting a role for neutral processes or concomitant differentiation in ecological traits. We adopted a multi-trait approach to obtain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind allopatric divergence in the Amazonian frog, Allobates femoralis. We tested the null hypothesis that geographic distance between populations correlates with genetic and phenotypic divergence, and compared divergence between mate-recognition (acoustic) and ecological (coloration, body-shape) traits. We quantified geographic variation in 39 phenotypic traits and a mitochondrial DNA marker among 125 individuals representing eight populations. Geographic variation in acoustic traits was pronounced and tracked the spatial genetic variation, which appeared to be neutral. Thus, the evolution of acoustic traits tracked the shared history of the populations, which is unexpected for pan-Amazonian taxa or for mate-recognition traits. Divergence in coloration appeared uncorrelated with genetic distance, and might be partly attributed to local selective pressures, and perhaps to Batesian mimicry. Divergence in body-shape traits was low. The results obtained depict a complex evolutionary scenario and emphasize the importance of considering multiple traits when disentangling the forces behind allopatric divergence. ©2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 98, 826–838.

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