Coalescent-based hypothesis testing supports multiple Pleistocene refugia in the Pacific Northwest for the Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)


Craig A. Steele, Fax: 509 335 3184; E-mail:


Phylogeographic patterns of many taxa are explained by Pleistocene glaciation. The temperate rainforests within the Pacific Northwest of North America provide an excellent example of this phenomenon, and competing phylogenetic hypotheses exist regarding the number of Pleistocene refugia influencing genetic variation of endemic organisms. One such endemic is the Pacific giant salamander, Dicamptodon tenebrosus. In this study, we estimate this species’ phylogeny and use a coalescent modeling approach to test five hypotheses concerning the number, location and divergence times of purported Pleistocene refugia. Single refugium hypotheses include: a northern refugium in the Columbia River Valley and a southern refugium in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Dual refugia hypotheses include these same refugia but separated at varying times: last glacial maximum (20 000 years ago), mid-Pleistocene (800 000 years ago) and early Pleistocene (1.7 million years ago). Phylogenetic analyses and inferences from nested clade analysis reveal distinct northern and southern lineages expanding from the Columbia River Valley and the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, respectively. Results of coalescent simulations reject both single refugium hypotheses and the hypothesis of dual refugia with a separation date in the late Pleistocene but not hypotheses predicting dual refugia with separation in early or mid-Pleistocene. Estimates of time since divergence between northern and southern lineages also indicate separation since early to mid-Pleistocene. Tests for expanding populations using mismatch distributions and ‘g’ distributions reveal demographic growth in the northern and southern lineages. The combination of these results provides strong evidence that this species was restricted into, and subsequently expanded from, at least two Pleistocene refugia in the Pacific Northwest.