Postglacial range expansion from northern refugia by the wood frog, Rana sylvatica


  • ‡Present address: Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4.

Julie A. Lee-Yaw, Fax: 604-822-2416; E-mail:


Although the range dynamics of North American amphibians during the last glacial cycle are increasingly better understood, the recolonization history of the most northern regions and the impact of southern refugia on patterns of intraspecific genetic diversity and phenotypic variation in these regions are not well reconstructed. Here we present the phylogeographic history of a widespread and primarily northern frog, Rana sylvatica. We surveyed 551 individuals from 116 localities across the species’ range for a 650-bp region of the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 and tRNATRP mitochondrial genes. Our phylogenetic analyses revealed two distinct clades corresponding to eastern and western populations, as well as a Maritime subclade within the eastern lineage. Patterns of genetic diversity support multiple refugia. However, high-latitude refugia in the Appalachian highlands and modern-day Wisconsin appear to have had the biggest impact on northern populations. Clustering analyses based on morphology further support a distinction between eastern and western wood frogs and suggest that postglacial migration has played an important role in generating broad-scale patterns of phenotypic variation in this species.