Genetic structure in northeastern populations of the Alpine newt (Triturus alpestris): evidence for post-Pleistocene differentiation


Maciej Pabijan, Fax: (48 12) 634-37-16; E-mail:


Genetic variation in 13 populations of the Alpine newt, Triturus alpestris, was assessed at the northeastern margin of its range (southern Poland). Variation at six microsatellite loci was scored in 354 newts, and two mitochondrial DNA fragments (c. 2000 bp) were sequenced in a subset of 27 individuals. Significant differences in allele frequencies and the presence of private alleles determined genetic units corresponding to three separate mountain ranges, i.e. the Carpathian, Sudetes and Holy Cross Mountains. FST's were three times greater in among than in within mountain range pairwise comparisons. An assignment test and pairwise FST's suggested relatively high levels of gene flow at the local level, although the Sudetes populations revealed some subtle structuring. Genetic variation was lower in the Carpathians and Holy Cross Mountains. The geographic pattern of mitochondrial DNA variation indicated that these newt populations originated from a single glacial refugium/founder population, and that the colonization of southern Poland took place in an easterly direction. The data show that substantial neutral variation and between group divergence has accumulated relatively quickly in these low-vagility organisms. The Alpine newt case exemplifies species history as a factor determining patterns of genetic diversity in marginal populations.