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Mol Ecol. 2015 Feb;24(4):909-25. doi: 10.1111/mec.13076. Epub 2015 Feb 3.

Pan-African phylogeography of a model organism, the African clawed frog 'Xenopus laevis'.

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Biology Department, McMaster University, Life Sciences Building, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, L8S 4K1.


The African clawed frog Xenopus laevis has a large native distribution over much of sub-Saharan Africa and is a model organism for research, a proposed disease vector, and an invasive species. Despite its prominent role in research and abundance in nature, surprisingly little is known about the phylogeography and evolutionary history of this group. Here, we report an analysis of molecular variation of this clade based on 17 loci (one mitochondrial, 16 nuclear) in up to 159 individuals sampled throughout its native distribution. Phylogenetic relationships among mitochondrial DNA haplotypes were incongruent with those among alleles of the putatively female-specific sex-determining gene DM-W, in contrast to the expectation of strict matrilineal inheritance of both loci. Population structure and evolutionarily diverged lineages were evidenced by analyses of molecular variation in these data. These results further contextualize the chronology, and evolutionary relationships within this group, support the recognition of X. laevis sensu stricto, X. petersii, X. victorianus and herein revalidated X. poweri as separate species. We also propose that portions of the currently recognized distributions of X. laevis (north of the Congo Basin) and X. petersii (south of the Congo Basin) be reassigned to X. poweri.


gene flow; phylogeography; population genetics; species limits

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