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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Apr;47(1):143-53. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2008.01.015. Epub 2008 Jan 26.

Dusky salamanders (Desmognathus, Plethodontidae) from the Coastal Plain: multiple independent lineages and their bearing on the molecular phylogeny of the genus.

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  • 1East Carolina University, Department of Biology, Greenville, NC 27858, USA.


Recent phylogenetic reassessment of the lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) confirmed a major life-history reversal-from direct development to an aquatic larval stage-in the dusky salamanders (Desmognathus) of eastern North America. This reversal initiated high rates of lineage accumulation, reputedly generating the species richness and ecological breath that now characterize Desmognathus. Certain important aspects of the radiation, e.g., ecomorphological evolution, have been identified through intense sampling effort of Appalachian Highland lineages. However, the research preoccupation on montane species has left overlooked a significant component of dusky salamander distribution-the Coastal Plain. We present the first molecular phylogeny for Desmognathus to incorporate extensive coverage from the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. We examined 38 Coastal Plain populations in conjunction with 45 additional populations, representing 16 of the 19 nominal species. Bayesian analysis of 88 mitochondrial cox1 haplotypes diagnosed eight independent population lineages within the Coastal Plain, a number at odds with the region's three currently recognized species. Desmognathus has apparently experienced a complex biogeographic history in this physiographic region, one involving multiple invasions and several ecological transitions from lotic to lentic habitats.

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