Conservation Genetics

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 59–69 | Cite as

Differential dispersal shapes population structure and patterns of genetic differentiation in two sympatric pond breeding salamanders

  • William E. PetermanEmail author
  • Thomas L. Anderson
  • Brittany H. Ousterhout
  • Dana L. Drake
  • Raymond D. Semlitsch
  • Lori S. Eggert
Research Article


Understanding patterns of dispersal, gene flow, and population differentiation are critical to making informed management and conservation decisions. By assessing these processes in multiple sympatric species, we can increase the generality and applicability of management plans. In this study, we assess patterns of genetic differentiation and population structure in two ecologically similar ambystomatid salamanders in Missouri, USA. Ambystoma annulatum (ringed salamander) and A. maculatum (spotted salamander) are both dependent upon forested habitats and fishless ponds for reproduction, but differ in their breeding phenology. In comparing these species, we assessed the support for five different processes that we hypothesized to affect genetic differentiation: (1) resistance of landscape features to movement, (2) distribution of breeding habitat, (3) dispersal propensity, (4) dispersal ability, and (5) breeding habitat quality. Of these hypotheses, we found support for differences in dispersal ability and propensity. In both species, there was a strong pattern of isolation-by-distance. However, A. annulatum exhibited greater overall differentiation (\(F_{\rm ST}^{\prime} = 0.31\) ), had a greater rate of differentiation increase with distance, and were grouped into three spatially congruent genetic clusters. In contrast, A. maculatum consisted of a single population cluster and overall \(F_{\rm ST}^{\prime}\) was 0.047. We estimated the mean genetic dispersal distance of A. annulatum and A. maculatum to be 1,693 m and 2,050 m, respectively. Our results underscore the importance of considering multiple species when developing management criteria to better account for differences in dispersal ability.


Ambystoma annulatum Ambystoma maculatum Amphibian Landscape genetics Life history Ozark Military installation 



We would like to thank K. Lohraff for logistical help and information about ponds and J. Philbrick and J. Heemeyer for field assistance. E. Brocato, L. Pauley, and E. Stuart provided invaluable assistance in the lab. This manuscript was improved by insightful comments of two anonymous reviewers. This research was approved by the University of Missouri Animal Care and Use Committee (7403), conducted under Missouri Department of Conservation Research permit #15203 and supported by the DoD Strategic Environmental Research Development Program (RC2155) and Trans World Airline Scholarship (WEP).

Supplementary material

10592_2014_640_MOESM1_ESM.docx (37 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 36 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • William E. Peterman
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thomas L. Anderson
    • 1
  • Brittany H. Ousterhout
    • 1
  • Dana L. Drake
    • 1
  • Raymond D. Semlitsch
    • 1
  • Lori S. Eggert
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biological SciencesColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research InstituteUniversity of IllinoisChampaignUSA

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