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Salamanders spell out evolution in action

Date:
July 11, 2011
Source:
BioMed Central
Summary:
Lungless salamanders (Ensatina eschscholtzii) live in a horseshoe-shape region in California (a 'ring') which circles around the central valley. New research showed that reproductive isolation of E. eschscholtzii was driven by genetic divergence rather than adaption to different ecological habitats.

Lungless salamanders (Ensatina eschscholtzii) live in a horseshoe-shape region in California (a 'ring') which circles around the central valley. The species is an example of evolution in action because, while neighboring populations may be able to breed, the two populations at the ends of the arms of the horseshoe are effectively unable to reproduce.

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New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology showed that this reproductive isolation was driven by genetic divergence rather than adaption to different ecological habitats.

Researchers used genetic variation to determine 20 distinct populations of salamanders and focused in detail at 13 zones where the populations were able to cross breed. Results showed that the diversification of salamander populations was associated with significant genetic divergence, both nuclear and mitochondrial, and also with strong ecological divergence, in the plants and climate within their habitats.

However the ability to cross-breed was only associated with nuclear divergence. At contact zones around the ring up to 75% of the salamanders were hybrids, including second generation and back crosses to the parental populations but at the ends of the ring only 5.7% were hybrids and all of these were first generation F1 hybrids which rarely reproduced.

Dr Pereira said, "Evidence from E. eschscholtzii shows that the ecological environment, which may drive species formation, does not necessarily drive reproductive isolation. Instead, reproductive isolation of this 'ring' species of salamanders appears to be due to processes such as length of time in geographic isolation which are related to overall genetic divergence."


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The above story is based on materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ricardo J Pereira, William B Monahan and David B Wake. Predictors for reproductive isolation in a ring species complex following genetic and ecological divergence. BMC Evolutionary Biology, (in press) 2011 [link]

Cite This Page:

BioMed Central. "Salamanders spell out evolution in action." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110705211022.htm>.
BioMed Central. (2011, July 11). Salamanders spell out evolution in action. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110705211022.htm
BioMed Central. "Salamanders spell out evolution in action." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110705211022.htm (accessed March 3, 2015).

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