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Tracking climate change in a dispersal-limited species: reduced spatial and genetic connectivity in a montane salamander


  • G. Velo-Antón,

    Corresponding authorCurrent affiliation:
    1. CIBIO/InBIO - Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos da Universidade do Porto, Instituto de Ciências Agrárias de Vairão, R. Padre Armando Quintas, Vairão, Portugal
    • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
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  • J. L. Parra,

    1. Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Instituto de Biología, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
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  • G. Parra-Olea,

    1. Departamento de Zoología, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Distrito Federal, México
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  • K. R. Zamudio

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
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Correspondence: Guillermo Velo-Antón, Fax: + 351 252661780; E-mail:


Tropical montane taxa are often locally adapted to very specific climatic conditions, contributing to their lower dispersal potential across complex landscapes. Climate and landscape features in montane regions affect population genetic structure in predictable ways, yet few empirical studies quantify the effects of both factors in shaping genetic structure of montane-adapted taxa. Here, we considered temporal and spatial variability in climate to explain contemporary genetic differentiation between populations of the montane salamander, Pseudoeurycea leprosa. Specifically, we used ecological niche modelling (ENM) and measured spatial connectivity and gene flow (using both mtDNA and microsatellite markers) across extant populations of P. leprosa in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (TVB). Our results indicate significant spatial and genetic isolation among populations, but we cannot distinguish between isolation by distance over time or current landscape barriers as mechanisms shaping population genetic divergences. Combining ecological niche modelling, spatial connectivity analyses, and historical and contemporary genetic signatures from different classes of genetic markers allows for inference of historical evolutionary processes and predictions of the impacts future climate change will have on the genetic diversity of montane taxa with low dispersal rates. Pseudoeurycea leprosa is one montane species among many endemic to this region and thus is a case study for the continued persistence of spatially and genetically isolated populations in the highly biodiverse TVB of central Mexico.