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The evolution of viviparity in holocene islands: ecological adaptation versus phylogenetic descent along the transition from aquatic to terrestrial environments

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Species that contain populations with different reproductive modes offer excellent opportunities to study the transition between such strategies. Salamandra salamandra (Linnaeus, 1758) is one of two species within the SalamandraLyciasalamandra clade which displays two reproductive modes simultaneously. Along the S. salamandra distribution, the common reproductive mode is ovoviviparity although the species also has viviparous populations in the northern Iberian Peninsula. The occurrence of viviparity has recently been reported in two small offshore island populations on the Atlantic coast (NW Iberia), which originated after the last glacial period (8000–9000 years ago). In this paper, we analysed ovoviviparous, hybrid and viviparous populations (inland and mainland) from 17 localities across the northern Iberian Peninsula using two mitochondrial markers (Cyt b and COI, c. 1100 bp). Phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses highly support that viviparity arose as an evolutionary novelty in the S. salamandra island populations and that viviparous populations are therefore not monophyletic. The recent insularity of Atlantic island populations leads us to conclude that the transition from ovoviviparity to viviparity can happen in a very short-time span. Additionally, to determine the likely source of this evolutionary transition, we discuss how ecological pressures could have an effect on the maintenance of the ovoviviparous reproductive mode. Hence, taking into account the results of this study, we propose the consideration of the island populations as an evolutionary unit for conservation purposes.
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Keywords: Ecological pressures; Salamandra; evolution; islands; mtDNA; ovoviviparity; viviparity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Grupo de Ecoloxía Evolutiva, Departamento de Ecoloxía e Bioloxía Animal, Universidade de Vigo, E.U.E.T. Forestal, Campus Universitario, Pontevedra, Spain 2: Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, C.S.I.C., c/José Gutiérrez Abascal, Madrid, Spain 3: Departamento de Bioloxía Animal, Bioloxía Vexetal e Ecoloxía, Facultade de Ciencias, Universidade da Coruña, Campus da Zapateira, Coruña, Spain

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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