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Keywords:

  • amphibians;
  • conservation;
  • cytochrome b;
  • Madagascar;
  • Mantella bernhardi;
  • phylogeography

Abstract

Mantella bernhardi is an endemic species of Malagasy poison frog threatened by loss and fragmentation of its natural habitat and collection for the pet trade. It is classified as threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) categories and included in Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). A recent survey has increased the known distributional range of the species from one to eight populations across southeastern Madagascar, but little is known about its biology and genetic diversity. Here we estimate inter- and intrapopulation mitochondrial genetic variation of four populations. Populations from the northern and southern parts of the distributional range showed a high degree of divergence (maximum of 11.35% in cytochrome b) and were recovered as reciprocally monophyletic groups. Nine haplotypes were detected in the northern and 12 in the southern populations. The population from Ranomafana National Park showed the lowest number of haplotypes and nucleotide diversity, and shared its most common haplotype with the second northern population from Tolongoina. All the other detected haplotypes were unique to each of the four populations. This suggests the existence of important barriers to gene flow, pre-dating human colonization of Madagascar at about 2000 years ago, in distinct contrast to other Mantella species that show a high degree of haplotype sharing throughout their range. The continued habitat fragmentation within the distribution range of M. bernhardi prevents any connection between its populations. Our data indicate the existence of at least two different management units for conservation in this species, corresponding to the North and South of its distribution range, and highlight the existence of strong regional endemism in southeastern Madagascar.