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The Genetic Relationships of the Salamanders of the Genus Plethodon

Richard Highton and Allan Larson
Systematic Zoology
Vol. 28, No. 4 (Dec., 1979), pp. 579-599
DOI: 10.2307/2412569
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2412569
Page Count: 21
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The Genetic Relationships of the Salamanders of the Genus Plethodon
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Abstract

An electrophoretic comparison of proteins is used to evaluate the genetic relationships of the salamanders of the genus Plethodon. The genetic relationships are generally in agreement with the morphological data upon which recent classifications are based but several discrepancies are discussed. In particular, the discovery that the eastern small plethodons are paraphyletic suggests that the ancestral plethodon resembled the small species in size and that the large size of the other eastern species is a derived state. Plethodon neomexicanus, whose relationship to the other plethodons has long been ambiguous, is most closely related to P. larselli; these two species share, in addition to protein similarities, a derived osteological character state not found elsewhere in the genus Plethodon. Electrophoretic genetic distance (D) is highly correlated with albumin immunological distance determined for the same set of populations (r = .86) and both measures estimate similar divergence times for Plethodon lineages even when values of D are very large. Average net rate of speciation in Plethodon equals that previously determined for salamanders in general (0.12 speciation events/lineage/million years) but the rates vary considerably. Estimates of genetic distance are used in an analysis of the results of DNA annealing studies. Evolutionary divergence of total single copy and total middle repetitive DNA fractions is highly correlated with genetic distance indicating that both DNA fractions include sequences that diverge in a time dependent manner. Sequence divergence of single copy DNA, which is directly proportional to Δ Tm, is calculated to be 0.17-0.18%/million years as a minimum estimate for Plethodon. The middle repetitive fraction as a whole appears to evolve rapidly in Plethodon as measured by changes in percentages of reassociation and by Δ Tm in interspecific comparisons, but a small subset of the middle repetitive sequences is highly conserved. It is concluded that the eastern and western species of Plethodon diverged slightly over 40 million years ago (in the late Eocene). Compared to other North American salamanders, morphological divergence among plethodons has been slow.

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