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Taxonomic status of the Rana sauteri complex: discordance between genetic and morphological traits

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Rana sauteri Boulenger, 1969 and R. multiderticulata Chou & Lin, 1997 are two sister species of brown frogs in Taiwan. They are distinguishable by the number of labial tooth rows (LTR) of tadpoles. We investigated morphometric and genetic (mtDNA cytb sequences) traits of 331 tadpoles of the two species and their putative hybrids from 32 locations along two transects. LTR correlated significantly with other morphometric traits and showed a longitudinal cline that increased from west to east across the central mountain range. Genetic differentiation was significant between the two transects, and correlated significantly with geographic distances. However, mtDNA haplotype distributions were indiscernible between the three LTR groups and uncorrelated with other morphometric traits. Individuals of the two sister species also failed to form monophyletic lineages. We argue that LTR is a phenotypically plastic trait related to stream current determined by elevation and monsoon rainfalls, and conclude that R. sauteri is the sole representative species, with R. multiderticulata being its synonym.
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Keywords: MORPHOMETRIC TRAITS; MTDNA CYTB SEQUENCES; RANA MULTIDERTICULATA; TADPOLE; TAXONOMY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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