Amphibian malformations and inbreeding.
ABSTRACT Inbreeding may lead to morphological malformations in a wide variety of taxa. We used genetic markers to evaluate whether malformed urodeles were more inbred and/or had less genetic diversity than normal salamanders. We captured 687 adult and 1,259 larval tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum), assessed each individual for gross malformations, and surveyed genetic variation among malformed and normal individuals using both cytoplasmic and nuclear markers. The most common malformations in both adults and larvae were brachydactyly, ectrodactyly and polyphalangy. The overall frequency of adults with malformations was 0.078 compared to 0.081 in larval samples. Genetic diversity was high in both normal and malformed salamanders, and there were no significant difference in measures of inbreeding (f and F), allele frequencies, mean individual heterozygosity or mean internal relatedness. Environmental contaminants or other extrinsic factors may lead to genome alternations that ultimately cause malformations, but our data indicate that inbreeding is not a causal mechanism.
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ABSTRACT: It is well established that a decrease in genetic variation can lead to reduced fitness and lack of adaptability to a changing environment. Amphibians are declining on a global scale, and we present a four-point argument as to why this taxonomic group seems especially prone to such genetic processes. We elaborate on the extent of recent fragmentation of amphibian gene pools and we propose the term dissociated populations to describe the residual population structure. To put their well-documented loss of genetic diversity into context, we provide an overview of 34 studies (covering 17 amphibian species) that address a link between genetic variation and >20 different fitness traits in amphibians. Although not all results are unequivocal, clear genetic-fitness-correlations (GFCs) are documented in the majority of the published investigations. In light of the threats faced by amphibians, it is of particular concern that the negative effects of various pollutants, pathogens and increased UV-B radiation are magnified in individuals with little genetic variability. Indeed, ongoing loss of genetic variation might be an important underlying factor in global amphibian declines.Diversity. 01/2010;
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ABSTRACT: Phenotypic anomalies are common in wild populations and multiple genetic, biotic and abiotic factors might contribute to their formation. Turtles are excellent models for the study of developmental instability because anomalies are easily detected in the form of malformations, additions, or reductions in the number of scutes or scales. In this study, we integrated field observations, manipulative experiments, and climatic and genetic approaches to investigate the origin of carapace scute anomalies across Iberian populations of the European pond turtle, Emys orbicularis. The proportion of anomalous individuals varied from 3% to 69% in local populations, with increasing frequency of anomalies in northern regions. We found no significant effect of climatic and soil moisture, or climatic temperature on the occurrence of anomalies. However, lower genetic diversity and inbreeding were good predictors of the prevalence of scute anomalies among populations. Both decreasing genetic diversity and increasing proportion of anomalous individuals in northern parts of the Iberian distribution may be linked to recolonization events from the Southern Pleistocene refugium. Overall, our results suggest that developmental instability in turtle carapace formation might be caused, at least in part, by genetic factors, although the influence of environmental factors affecting the developmental stability of turtle carapace cannot be ruled out. Further studies of the effects of environmental factors, pollutants and heritability of anomalies would be useful to better understand the complex origin of anomalies in natural populations.PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(4):e18714. · 4.09 Impact Factor
Article: Extremely low genetic diversity indicating the endangered status of Ranodon sibiricus (Amphibia: Caudata) and implications for phylogeography.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The Siberian salamander (Ranodon sibiricus), distributed in geographically isolated areas of Central Asia, is an ideal alpine species for studies of conservation and phylogeography. However, there are few data regarding the genetic diversity in R. sibiricus populations. We used two genetic markers (mtDNA and microsatellites) to survey all six populations of R. sibiricus in China. Both of the markers revealed extreme genetic uniformity among these populations. There were only three haplotypes in the mtDNA, and the overall nucleotide diversity in the mtDNA was 0.00064, ranging from 0.00000 to 0.00091 for the six populations. Although we recovered 70 sequences containing microsatellite repeats, there were only two loci that displayed polymorphism. We used the approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) method to study the demographic history of the populations. This analysis suggested that the extant populations diverged from the ancestral population approximately 120 years ago and that the historical population size was much larger than the present population size; i.e., R. sibiricus has experienced dramatic population declines. Our findings suggest that the genetic diversity in the R. sibiricus populations is the lowest among all investigated amphibians. We conclude that the isolation of R. sibiricus populations occurred recently and was a result of recent human activity and/or climatic changes. The Pleistocene glaciation oscillations may have facilitated intraspecies genetic homogeneity rather than enhanced divergence. A low genomic evolutionary rate and elevated inbreeding frequency may have also contributed to the low genetic variation observed in this species. Our findings indicate the urgency of implementing a protection plan for this endangered species.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(3):e33378. · 4.09 Impact Factor