Senior graduate student Jacob Burkhart has a new publication in Ecology and Evolution made available today!
Burkhart JJ, Peterman WE, Brocato ER, et al. The influence of breeding phenology on the genetic structure of four pond- breeding salamanders. Ecol Evol. 2017;00:1–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3060
Understanding metapopulation dynamics requires knowledge about local population dynamics and movement in both space and time. Most genetic metapopulation studies use one or two study species across the same landscape to infer population dynamics; however, using multiple co- occurring species allows for testing of hypotheses related to different life history strategies. We used genetic data to study dispersal, as measured by gene flow, in three ambystomatid salamanders (Ambystoma annulatum, A. maculatum, and A. opacum) and the Central Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis) on the same landscape in Missouri, USA. While all four salamander species are forest dependent organisms that require fishless ponds to reproduce, they differ in breeding phenology and spatial distribution on the landscape. We use these differences in life history and distribution to address the following questions: (1) Are there species- level differences in the observed patterns of genetic diversity and genetic structure? and (2) Is dispersal influenced by landscape resistance? We detected two genetic clusters in A. annulatum and A. opacum on our landscape; both species breed in the fall and larvae overwinter in ponds. In contrast, no structure was evident in A. maculatum and N. v. louisianensis, species that breed during the spring. Tests for isolation by distance were significant for the three ambystomatids but not for N. v. louisianensis. Landscape resistance also contributed to genetic differentiation for all four species. Our results suggest species- level differences in dispersal ability and breeding phenology are driving observed patterns of genetic differentiation. From an evolutionary standpoint, the observed differences in dispersal distances and genetic structure between fall breeding and spring breeding species may be a result of the trade- off between larval period length and size at metamorphosis which in turn may influence the long- term viability of the metapopulation. Thus, it is important to consider life history differences among closely related and ecologically similar species when making management decisions.