Conflicting Patterns of Genetic Structure Produced by Nuclear and Mitochondrial Markers in the Oregon Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps wrighti): Implications for Conservation Efforts and Species Management
Date of this Version
Published in Conservation Genetics (2005) 6:275–287. DOI: 10.1007/s10592-004-7850-6
Endemic to Oregon in the northwestern US, the Oregon slender salamander (Batrachoseps wrighti = B. wrightorum) is a terrestrial plethodontid found associated with late successional mesic forests. Consequently, forest management practices such as timber harvesting may impact their persistence. Therefore, to infer possible future effects of these practices on population structure and differentiation, we used mitochondrial DNA sequences (cytochrome b) and RAPD markers to analyze 22 populations across their range. Phylogenetic analyses of sequence data (774 bp) revealed two historical lineages corresponding to northern and southern-distributed populations. Relationships among haplotypes and haplotype diversity within lineages suggested that the northern region may have more recently been colonized compared to the southern region. In contrast to the mitochondrial data, analyses of 46 RAPD loci suggested an overall pattern of isolation-by-distance in the set of populations examined and no particularly strong clustering of populations based on genetic distances. We propose two non-exclusive hypotheses to account for discrepancies between mitochondrial and nuclear data sets. First, our data may reflect an overall ancestral pattern of isolation-by-distance that has subsequently been influenced by vicariance. Alternately, our analyses may suggest that male-mediated gene flow and female philopatry are important contributors to the pattern of genetic diversity. We discuss the importance of distinguishing between these two hypotheses for the purposes of identifying conservation units and note that, regardless of the relative contribution of each mechanism towards the observed pattern of diversity, protection of habitat will likely prove critical for the long-term persistence of this species.