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Patterns of genetic differentiation in Thamnophis and Taricha from the Pacific Northwest

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Abstract Aim 

The co-evolutionary interaction between the common garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, and the rough-skinned newt, Taricha granulosa, takes place throughout much of the Pacific Northwest (North America). The biogeography of the Pacific Northwest has been heavily influenced by the last Pleistocene glaciation, which reached a maximum as late as 14,000 yrbp. We researched: (1) what type of population structure is present for garter snakes and newts, (2) whether the population structure of these species is consistent with a Pleistocene glaciation hypothesis, and (3) how population structure and migration possibly affect co-evolution between these species. Location 

The Pacific Northwest of North America, specifically northern California, Oregon and Washington in the USA. Methods 

We sampled approximately 20 populations for each species from three different transects. Using microsatellite markers and tissue samples from both species, we quantified the population structure for both species. Individual-based assignment tests were used to estimate contemporary migration rates. Results 

Both Th. sirtalis and Ta. granulosa exhibited little genetic differentiation among our study sites, even among those separated by large distances. Significant population structure was detected on multiple geographic scales. Differences in population structure were observed among transects and between garter snake and newt transects. Contemporary migration rate estimates indicate high levels of genetic exchange between populations. Main conclusions 

Prior to this study, little was known about the fine-scale population structure of either species in this region. Patterns of population structure for garter snakes and newts reflect a shared biogeographical history affected by the Pleistocene glaciation in the Pacific Northwest. Both species apparently migrate frequently between populations, thus potentially retarding the process of adaptive co-evolution. We find that populations from a northern coastal transect (Washington) are most likely to be locally adapted.
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Keywords: Biogeography; North America; Pleistocene glaciation; Taricha granulosa; Thamnophis sirtalis; co-evolution; garter snake; gene flow; phylogeography; population structure

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-3700 2: Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5305 3: Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4328, USA

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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