Conservation Genetics

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 453–468 | Cite as

A 40-year-old divided highway does not prevent gene flow in the alpine newt Ichthyosaura alpestris

  • Jérôme G. PrunierEmail author
  • Bernard Kaufmann
  • Jean-Paul Léna
  • Serge Fenet
  • François Pompanon
  • Pierre Joly
Research Article


Roads are of major concern in conservation biology, as they are known to restrict animal movements through landscape fragmentation, and may therefore impact genetic patterns in native terrestrial organisms. We assessed the effect of two large-scale transportation infrastructures (LTIs), a 40-year-old highway and a 30 year-old high-speed railway, on the spatial genetic structure of the alpine newt Ichthyosaura alpestris, a highly nomadic amphibian. Genetic data were gathered following a targeted individual-based sampling scheme and analysed using both overlay and correlative methods. While simulations suggested that the highway may be old enough for a significant barrier effect to be detected, LTIs were never detected as barriers to gene flow: inferred genetic boundaries rather coincided with transition zones between major landscape entities. Furthermore, spatial principal component analysis, a method designed to reveal cryptic genetic spatial patterns in high gene flow species, counter-intuitively suggested that the highway may act as a potential dispersal corridor in low-quality habitats, thus challenging traditional hypotheses on road impacts in amphibians. Our study showed that considering local interactions between species, infrastructures and landscape-specific characteristics is essential for better understanding the potential impacts of roads on movement patterns in terrestrial organisms.


Amphibian Bayesian clustering methods Correlative analyses Landscape genetics Spatial Principal Component Analysis 



This work was supported by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche et de la Technologie (ANRT, agreement 2/2009), Réseau Ferré de France (RFF), Autoroutes Paris-Rhin-Rhône (APRR) and the ECOSPHERE company. It was conducted in accordance with French laws and with the approval of the Préfectures de Saône-et-Loire, de Côte-d’Or and de l’Yonne. We warmly thank T. Jombart for helpful comments about sPCA results, P. Allemand for his help in Matlab programing, E. Landguth for clues as to the use of CDPOP and J. Van Buskirk for details about his own study. We gratefully acknowledge support from the CNRS/IN2P3 Computing Center (Lyon/Villeurbanne - France), for providing part of the computing ressources needed for this work. In addition, we thank C. De Fazio, G. Perez, F. Revollon, F. Ribette, J. Mangin and O. Grolet for their precious help and support in the field and laboratory, A. Corrigan for proofreading, and two anonymous reviewers for comments that greatly improved this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10592_2013_553_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (425 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 425 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jérôme G. Prunier
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  • Bernard Kaufmann
    • 2
  • Jean-Paul Léna
    • 2
  • Serge Fenet
    • 3
  • François Pompanon
    • 4
  • Pierre Joly
    • 2
  1. 1.EcosphèreSaint Maur des FossésFrance
  2. 2.Université de Lyon, UMR5023 Ecologie des Hydrosystèmes Naturels et Anthropisés, Université Lyon 1, ENTPE, CNRSVilleurbanneFrance
  3. 3.Université de Lyon, UMR 5205 Laboratoire d’Informatique en Image et Systèmes d’information, Bat. Nautibus, Université Lyon 1, CNRSVilleurbanneFrance
  4. 4.Université Joseph Fourier, Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, CNRS, UMR 5553Grenoble Cedex 9France
  5. 5.Institute of Life Sciences (ISV)Université Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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