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Foundations for conservation of intraspecific genetic diversity revealed by analysis of phylogeographical structure in the endangered endemic lizard Podarcis lilfordi

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To describe and analyse phylogeographical patterns in the endangered endemic lizard Podarcis lilfordi from across its remaining range and thereby establish baseline information on genetic diversity that will help determine conservation priorities and assist future reintroduction programs. Location 

Balearic Islands, Spain. Methods 

We analysed mitochondrial DNA (2382 bp sequence from eight genes) from 118 individuals and characterized the relationships among haplotypes using parsimony networks, as well as phylogenetic inference. Analyses of historical gene flow and population growth were used to provide further insights into population histories. Results 

Four unconnected parsimony networks were obtained that mirrored the main clades in the phylogenetic tree: (I) all Menorcan populations, (II) Dragonera, Malgrats and Toro islands (Western Mallorca) (III and IV) and the remaining populations from Cabrera and Mallorca. Two major haplotype groups were detected in Menorca (I) and these provided signatures of a demographic expansion and asymmetrical historical gene flow, respectively, concordant with the expected direction of colonization from south to north of the island. Populations from western Mallorca (II) showed evidence of historical allopatric fragmentation events following isolation around the start of the Pleistocene. In networks III and IV, Cabreran populations appear to have become isolated from north and south Mallorca quite recently, with asymmetric gene flow indicating a northwards dispersal direction. Main conclusions 

P. lilfordi is a genetically diverse species that shows substantial mtDNA structuring both between regions and, at a finer scale, between some islet populations within regions. The precarious state of some islet populations shown here to be quite divergent (e.g. Toro island in western Mallorca) means that conservation of this intraspecific biodiversity requires urgent action.
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Keywords: Balearic archipelago; Podarcis lilfordi; conservation biogeography; migration; mtDNA; phylogeography

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratori de Genètica, Universitat de les Illes Balears, 07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 2: Departamento de Zoologia. Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain, 3: School of Biological and Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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