Testing hypotheses of speciation in the Plethodon jordani species complex with allozymes and mitochondrial DNA sequences

David W. Weisrock, Allan Larson

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39 Scopus citations


Salamander populations of the Plethodon jordani species complex form a challenging system for applying the general lineage concept of species to diagnose population-level lineages. The present study reports and analyses mitochondrial-DNA haplotypes (∼1200 nucleotide bases from the genes encoding ND2, tRNATrp, and tRNAAla from 438 salamanders) from 100 populations representing six species of the P. jordani complex (Plethodon amplus, Plethodon cheoah, Plethodon jordani, Plethodon meridianus, Plethodon metcalfi, and Plethodon montanus) with comparative analyses of previously published allozymic data to reconstruct the evolutionary history of this group and to diagnose species lineages. Analyses of mitochondrial haplotypic data include nested-cladistic analysis of phylogeography, analysis of molecular variance, hierarchical analysis of nucleotide-diversity measures, and likelihood-based estimates of recent temporal changes in population size. New analyses of allozymic data include multidimensional scaling and principal component analyses, and both data sets are analysed and compared for congruent genetic structure using Mantel correlation tests. These analyses in combination identify the six named species as distinct evolutionary lineages despite sporadic genetic exchanges among them and some discordance between mitochondrial DNA and allozymic markers. Sexual isolation is not complete for any pair of these six species, but they replace each other geographically and appear to block the geographical spreading of their neighbours. The P. jordani complex is a strong study system for investigating the genetic and ecological processes responsible for vicariant speciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-51
Number of pages27
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • General Lineage Concept
  • Introgression
  • Nested-cladistic analysis
  • Phylogeography
  • Plethodontidae
  • Salamander
  • Southern Appalachian Mountains


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