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Montane refugia predict population genetic structure in the Large-blotched Ensatina salamander



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 23, Issue 22, 5645, Article first published online: 25 November 2014


Understanding the biotic consequences of Pleistocene range shifts and fragmentation remains a fundamental goal in historical biogeography and evolutionary biology. Here, we combine species distribution models (SDM) from the present and two late Quaternary time periods with multilocus genetic data (mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites) to evaluate the effect of climate-induced habitat shifts on population genetic structure in the Large-blotched Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii klauberi), a plethodontid salamander endemic to middle and high-elevation conifer forest in the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges of southern California and northern Baja California. A composite SDM representing the range through time predicts two disjunct refugia, one in southern California encompassing the core of the species range and the other in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir of northern Baja California at the southern limit of the species range. Based on our spatial model, we would expect a pattern of high connectivity among populations within the northern refugium and, conversely, a pattern of isolation due to long-term persistence of the Sierra San Pedro Mártir population. Our genetic results are consistent with these predictions based on the hypothetical refugia in that (i) historical measures of population connectivity among stable areas are correlated with gene flow estimates; and (ii) there is strong geographical structure between separate refugia. These results provide evidence for the role of recent climatic change in shaping patterns of population persistence and connectivity within the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, an evolutionary hotspot.