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Phylogeography and Spatial Genetic Structure of the Southern Torrent Salamander: Implications for Conservation and Management

Miller, Mark P., Haig, Susan M., Wagner, R. Steven
Journal of heredity 2006 v.97 no.6 pp. 561-570
coniferous forests, cytochrome b, endangered species, gene flow, genetic techniques and protocols, genetic variation, phylogeography, rivers, salamanders and newts, California, Oregon
The Southern torrent salamander (Rhyacotriton variegatus) was recently found not warranted for listing under the US Endangered Species Act due to lack of information regarding population fragmentation and gene flow. Found in small-order streams associated with late-successional coniferous forests of the US Pacific Northwest, threats to their persistence include disturbance related to timber harvest activities. We conducted a study of genetic diversity throughout this species' range to 1) identify major phylogenetic lineages and phylogeographic barriers and 2) elucidate regional patterns of population genetic and spatial phylogeographic structure. Cytochrome b sequence variation was examined for 189 individuals from 72 localities. We identified 3 major lineages corresponding to nonoverlapping geographic regions: a northern California clade, a central Oregon clade, and a northern Oregon clade. The Yaquina River may be a phylogeographic barrier between the northern Oregon and central Oregon clades, whereas the Smith River in northern California appears to correspond to the discontinuity between the central Oregon and northern California clades. Spatial analyses of genetic variation within regions encompassing major clades indicated that the extent of genetic structure is comparable among regions. We discuss our results in the context of conservation efforts for Southern torrent salamanders.