Comparative molecular phylogeography of North American softshell turtles (Apalone): Implications for regional and wide-scale historical evolutionary forces

David W. Weisrock, Fredric J. Janzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


We use a comparative analysis of partial cytochrome b sequences to evaluate the evolutionary forces shaping wide-scale phylogeographic patterns of all three North American softshell turtles (Apalone ferox, A. mutica, and A. spinifera). The overall phylogeographic patterns are concordant with results from both extensive regional studies of southeastern species, implicating historical vicariant processes during the Pliocene and Pleistocene, and investigations of more northerly distributed species, indicating a bottleneck effect of recent dispersal into postglacial habitat. We also resolved a novel, shared genetic break between northern-western and southeastern populations within both A. mutica and A. spinifera, demonstrating the value of using widespread taxa to evaluate both regional and wider scale phylogeographic patterns. The extensive phylogenetic structure and sequence divergences within both A. mutica and A. spinifera contrast sharply with most previous studies of turtles and with the hypothesis that turtles in general have slow rates of mtDNA evolution. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-164
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Tissue and egg samples were kindly provided by K. Darnell, S. Doody, M. Fletcher, J. Harding, C. Lanthier, P. Magwene, P. Moler, C. Painter, B. Shaffer, and J. Tucker. Eggs collected by F.J.J. were obtained with Iowa Department of Natural Resources Scientific Collecting Permit SC14 9501 and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Scientific Collecting Permit SCP-WD-82-C-95. Special thanks go to T. Haselkorn for assistance with the molecular work; P. Meylan, G. Orti, E. Routman, B. Shaffer, and an anonymous reviewer for insightful comments on various drafts of the manuscript; R. Sterner for the use of his maps; K. Darnell for going out of his way simply for the love of softshell turtles; and P. Meylan for encouraging the project and for advice in getting started. This work was conducted by D.W.W. in partial fulfillment of his M.S. requirements at ISU. Partial funding was provided by the Department of Zoology and Genetics and NSF Grant DEB 96-29529 to F.J.J. This is Journal paper No. J-18433 of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Ames, IA, Project No. 3369, and was supported by Hatch Act and State of Iowa funds.


  • Bottleneck
  • Comparative phylogeography
  • Cytochrome b
  • Intraspecific phylogenetics
  • Molecular evolution
  • Softshell turtle
  • Southeastern United States
  • Vicariance
  • mtDNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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