The Biology of Plethodontid Salamanders

pp 31-93

Geographic Protein Variation and Speciation in Salamanders of the Plethodon Jordani and Plethodon Glutinosus Complexes in the Southern Appalachian Mountains with the Description of Four New Species

  • Richard HightonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Maryland
  • , Robert B. PeabodyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Maryland

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The purpose of this paper is to analyze geographic protein variation in two closely related complexes of southern Appalachian woodland salamanders. The Plethodon jordani complex is restricted to the southern Appalachian Mountains, and the P glutinosus complex is widely distributed in the eastern and central United States. When we began our allozyme studies on eastern Plethodon, both complexes were regarded as monophyletic and each was made the subject of a separate study. Each complex previously had been recognized as a single variable species, Plethodon glutinosus (Green,1818), and Plethodon jordani Blatchley (1901) (Hairston,1950; Highton,1962, Highton,1970, Highton,1972). Highton and MacGregor(1983) and Highton (1984, 1989), showed that there are 16 genetically divergent groups within the P. glutinosus complex and all were recognized taxonomically as separate species. Seven of these occur in the southern Appalachians and three, P. aureolus (Highton 1984); P. glutinosus, and P. teyahalee Hairston (1950), are sympatric at a site in Polk County, Tennessee, without evidence of hybridation (Highton 1984). Both complexes are geographically variable in coloration and size but most individuals are easily identified. Members of the P. glutinosus complex are characterized by the possession of dorsal white or brassy spotting (except in P. chattahoochee) and lateral white or yellow spotting. Salamanders of the P. jordani complex are characterized by usually lacking dorsal spotting, and, except for two groups, most populations lack lateral spotting.