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red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus, genetic variation, microsatellite markers


The red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) has long-served as a model system in ecology, evolution, and behavior, and studies surveying molecular variation in this species have become increasingly common over the past decade. However, difficulties are commonly encountered when extending microsatellite markers to populations that are unstudied from a genetic perspective due to high levels of genetic differentiation across this species’ range. To ameliorate this issue, we used 454 pyrosequencing to identify hundreds of microsatellite loci. We then screened 40 of our top candidate loci in populations in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio—including an isolated island population ~ 4.5 km off the shore of Lake Erie (South Bass Island). We identified 25 loci that are polymorphic in a well-studied region of Virginia and 11 of these loci were polymorphic in populations located in the genetically unstudied regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Use of these loci to examine patterns of variation within populations revealed that South Bass Island has low diversity in comparison to other sites. However, neither South Bass Island nor isolated populations around Cleveland are inbred. Assessment of variation between populations revealed three well defined genetic clusters corresponding to Virginia, mainland Ohio/Pennsylvania, and South Bass Island. Comparisons of our results to those of others working in various parts of the range are consistent with the idea that differentiation is lower in regions that were once glaciated. However, these comparisons also suggest that well differentiated isolated populations in the formerly glaciated portion of the range are not uncommon. This work provides novel genetic resources that will facilitate population genetic studies in a part of the red-backed salamander’s range that has not previously been studied in this manner. Moreover, this work refines our understanding of how neutral variation is distributed in this ecologically important organism.


Originally published in:

Cameron AC, Anderson JJ, Page RB (2017) Assessment of intra and interregional genetic variation in the Eastern Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus, via analysis of novel microsatellite markers. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0186866. pone.0186866

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