Multiple nuclear gene sequences identify phylogenetic species boundaries in the rapidly radiating clade of Mexican ambystomatid salamanders

David W. Weisrock, H. Bradley Shaffer, Brian L. Storz, Shonna R. Storz, S. Randal Voss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Delimiting the boundaries of species involved in radiations is critical to understanding the tempo and mode of lineage formation. Single locus gene trees may or may not reflect the underlying pattern of population divergence and lineage formation, yet they constitute the vast majority of the empirical data in species radiations. In this study we make use of an expressed sequence tag (EST) database to perform nuclear (nDNA) and mitochondrial (mtDNA) genealogical tests of species boundaries in Ambystoma ordinarium, a member of an adaptive radiation of metamorphic and paedomorphic salamanders (the Ambystoma tigrinum complex) that have diversified across terrestrial and aquatic environments. Gene tree comparisons demonstrate extensive nonmonophyly in the mtDNA genealogy of A. ordinarium, while seven of eight independent nuclear loci resolve the species as monophyletic or nearly so, and diagnose it as a well-resolved genealogical species. A differential introgression hypothesis is supported by the observation that western A. ordinarium localities contain mtDNA haplotypes that are identical or minimally diverged from haplotypes sampled from a nearby paedomorphic species, Ambystoma dumerilii, while most nDNA trees place these species in distant phylogenetic positions. These results provide a strong example of how historical introgression can lead to radical differences between gene trees and species histories, even among currently allopatric species with divergent life history adaptations and morphologies. They also demonstrate how EST-based nuclear resources can be used to more fully resolve the phylogenetic history of species radiations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2489-2503
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Ambystoma
  • EST
  • Gene tree
  • Introgression
  • Lineage sorting
  • Paedomorphosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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