Refugial isolation and secondary contact in the dyeing poison frog Dendrobates tinctorius


B. P. Noonan, Fax: 919-660-7293; E-mail:


Recent palaeoclimactic research suggests that fluctuating environmental conditions throughout the Pleistocene of Amazonia occurred with previously unrecognized frequency. This has resulted in a theoretical shift from glacially influenced fluctuations to those driven by precessional rhythms. This theoretical revolution has a profound impact on expectations of biotic diversity within biogeographical regions that have long been based on the idea of large-scale landscape fragmentation associated with increased aridity and glacial cycles. Generally speaking, this shifts phylogeographical expectations from that of (i) large areas of sympatry of closely related (but not sister) species whose origins lie in separate refugia, and current distributions are the results of cyclic connectivity of those two refugia (refuge hypothesis), to that of (ii) fine scale genetic structure, often associated with elevation, and divergence well below expected speciation levels [disturbance–vicariance (DV) hypothesis]. To date there have been few tests of the expectations of the DV hypothesis based on empirical studies of Neotropical floral and faunal communities. Herein we examine phylogeographical structure of Dendrobates tinctorius, an amphibian species endemic to the uplands of the eastern Guiana Shield, based on sampling of 114 individuals from 24 localities. Phylogenetic, nested clade, and dispersal–vicariance (DIVA) analyses of cytochrome b sequence data reveal the presence of two mitochondrial lineages that are associated with previously identified western and eastern uplands of this area. The geographical distribution of mitochondrial haplotypes and the results of DIVA and coalescent analyses suggest that there has been extensive secondary contact between these lineages indicating a complex history of connectivity between these western and eastern highlands, supporting the predictions of the DV hypothesis.