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Isolation and high genetic diversity in dwarf mountain toads (Capensibufo) from South Africa

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Traditional models of amphibian dispersal and gene flow point to low dispersal and high philopatry. In recent years, this traditional view has been challenged and it appears that no general model holds across taxa. Conservation of amphibians cannot be addressed on an over-arching scale, but must come on a case-by-case basis, especially for range-restricted species where information on gene flow and migration must be incorporated into conservation efforts. The only two members of the genus Capensibufo Grandison, 1980 (Anura: Bufonidae) are range restricted small bufonids, with distributions limited to montane areas in South Africa. Using a Bayesian analysis of two mitochondrial markers (16S and ND2), we examined the genetic patterns in Capensibufo rosei and Capensibufo tradouwi in order to understand both taxonomic and geographic boundaries. These species were not monophyletic, and demonstrate no clear taxonomic boundaries. Instead, the genus is extremely diverse genetically, with distinct lineages confined to isolated mountains that represent geographic boundaries. In addition, bioclimatic modelling using MAXENT and scenarios of climatic conditions at both the present and last glacial maximum suggest multiple bioclimatic and physical barriers to gene flow at present and in the past. We conclude that members of the genus have very low vagility, that current taxonomic boundaries are inadequate, and that strong geographic structuring has undoubtedly contributed to genetic diversity at the species level, rather than the population level. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 100, 822–834.
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Keywords: Africa; Cape Fold Mountains; Cape Peninsula; amphibian dispersal; climate change

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Scientific Services, Western Cape Nature Conservation Board (CapeNature), Private Bag X5014, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa 2: Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa

Publication date: 2010-08-01

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