Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 835–854 | Cite as

Genetic diversity in a narrowly endemic, recently described dusky salamander, Desmognathus folkertsi, from the southern Appalachian Mountains

  • Jessica A. Wooten
  • Carlos D. Camp
  • Leslie J. Rissler
Research Article


To understand patterns of biodiversity and whether populations and species are in decline, the detection and description of cryptic biodiversity are essential. Salamanders are of particular conservation interest because they potentially harbor many undescribed species due to morphological conservatism. The dusky salamanders, genus Desmognathus, are a species-rich group in which morphologically cryptic species are especially common. Using a portion of the mitochondrial genome and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP), we investigated the genetic diversity of the highly endemic, stream-dwelling salamander, Desmognathus folkertsi, across its known range in the Appalachian Mountains. Mitochondrial data revealed three well-supported lineages, one of which consisted of only one specimen; however, AFLP data were not congruent with the mitochondrial data. There was 1.11% uncorrected sequence divergence between the two well-sampled lineages. Desmognathus folkertsi exhibited 4.29% sequence divergence from the closely related D. quadramaculatus. Isolation by distance was found for both the AFLP and mitochondrial data when stream distance, rather than when straight-line (i.e., geographic) distance was used. Although genetic diversity is often partitioned by river drainages in freshwater taxa, we did not observe such a pattern in D. folkertsi. We propose that human-mediated dispersal by bait-bucket release may augment natural gene flow via aquatic dispersal across streams. Because this species was only recently discovered, the full extent of the geographic range is unknown. Therefore, an ecological niche model, using climate variables and the Maxent algorithm, was used to determine whether additional regions may be suitable for the species. The model predicted a small range limited to extreme southwestern North Carolina and extreme northeastern Georgia. We suggest future surveys be focused in these regions.


Amphibian AFLP Conservation Phylogeography Plethodontidae 



This research was supported by the help and advice of many friends and colleagues. S. Eagle, W. Van Devender, A. Van Devender, M. Chadwick, S. Parker, Z. Felix, B. Sutton, D. Merritt, J. Hodgson, S. Fields, J. Humphries, J. Waldron, R. Makowsky, C. Makowsky, W. Smith, and C. Cox helped in the field. W. Holznagel, L. Tolley-Jordan, and E. Toorens provided assistance with the laboratory work and AFLP fragment analysis. P. Bradford extracted the stream distances for each locality. T. Lamb provided valuable comments that significantly improved the manuscript. All salamander research was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocol number 05-242-3 to LJR at The University of Alabama. This research was funded by: a NSF DEB 0414033 awarded to LJR, American Museum of Natural History grant awarded to JAW, and The University of Alabama.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica A. Wooten
    • 1
    • 3
  • Carlos D. Camp
    • 2
  • Leslie J. Rissler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyPiedmont CollegeDemorestUSA
  3. 3.Franklin UniversityColumbusUSA

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