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Evolution. 2003 Jul;57(7):1631-52.

Historical isolation, range expansion, and secondary contact of two highly divergent mitochondrial lineages in spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum).

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


The high species diversity of aquatic and terrestrial faunas in eastern North America has been attributed to range reductions and allopatric diversification resulting from historical climate change. The role these processes may have played in speciation is still a matter of considerable debate; however, their impacts on intraspecific genetic structure have been well documented. We use mitochondrial DNA sequences to reconstruct an intraspecific phylogeny of the widespread North American spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, and test whether phylogenetic patterns conform to regional biogeographical hypotheses about the origins of diversity in eastern North America. Specifically, we address the number and locations of historical refugia, the extent and patterns of postglacial colonization by divergent lineages, and the origin and affinities of populations in the Interior Highland region. Despite apparent morphological uniformity, genetic discontinuities throughout the range of this species suggest that populations were historically fragmented in at least two refugia in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The ranges of these two highly divergent clades expanded northward, resulting in two widely distributed lineages that are sympatric in regions previously proposed as suture zones for other taxa. The evolutionary history of spotted salamander populations underscores the generality of biogeographical processes in eastern North America: despite differences in population size, glacial refugia, and vagility, similar signatures of differentiation are evident among and within widespread taxa.

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