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Comparative landscape genetics reveals the evolution of viviparity reduces genetic connectivity in fire salamanders

Lourenço, André, Gonçalves, João, Carvalho, Filipe, Wang, Ian J., Velo‐Antón, Guillermo
Molecular ecology 2019 v.28 no.20 pp. 4573-4591
Salamandra salamandra, adults, agricultural land, evolution, gene flow, genetic analysis, genotyping, habitat fragmentation, habitats, landscape genetics, landscapes, larvae, microsatellite repeats, mitochondria, prediction, reproduction, salamanders and newts, topography
Evolutionary changes in reproductive mode may affect co‐evolving traits, such as dispersal, although this subject remains largely underexplored. The shift from aquatic oviparous or larviparous reproduction to terrestrial viviparous reproduction in some amphibians entails skipping the aquatic larval stage and, thus, greater independence from water. Accordingly, amphibians exhibiting terrestrial viviparous reproduction may potentially disperse across a wider variety of suboptimal habitats and increase population connectivity in fragmented landscapes compared to aquatic‐breeding species. We investigated this hypothesis in the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), which exhibits both aquatic‐ (larviparity) and terrestrial‐breeding (viviparity) strategies. We genotyped 426 larviparous and 360 viviparous adult salamanders for 13 microsatellite loci and sequenced a mitochondrial marker for 133 larviparous and 119 viviparous individuals to compare population connectivity and landscape resistance to gene flow within a landscape genetics framework. Contrary to our predictions, viviparous populations exhibited greater differentiation and reduced genetic connectivity compared to larviparous populations. Landscape genetic analyses indicate viviparity may be partially responsible for this pattern, as water courses comprised a significant barrier only in viviparous salamanders, probably due to their fully terrestrial life cycle. Agricultural areas and, to a lesser extent, topography also decreased genetic connectivity in both larviparous and viviparous populations. This study is one of very few to explicitly demonstrate the evolution of a derived reproductive mode affects patterns of genetic connectivity. Our findings open avenues for future research to better understand the eco‐evolutionary implications underlying the emergence of terrestrial reproduction in amphibians.