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The genetic structure of a relict population of wood frogs

December 1, 2012

Habitat fragmentation and the associated reduction in connectivity between habitat patches are commonly cited causes of genetic differentiation and reduced genetic variation in animal populations. We used eight microsatellite markers to investigate genetic structure and levels of genetic diversity in a relict population of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvatica) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, where recent disturbances have altered hydrologic processes and fragmented amphibian habitat. We also estimated migration rates among subpopulations, tested for a pattern of isolation-by-distance, and looked for evidence of a recent population bottleneck. The results from the clustering algorithm in Program STRUCTURE indicated the population is partitioned into two genetic clusters (subpopulations), and this result was further supported by factorial component analysis. In addition, an estimate of FST (FST = 0.0675, P value \0.0001) supported the genetic differentiation of the two clusters. Estimates of migration rates among the two subpopulations were low, as were estimates of genetic variability. Conservation of the population of wood frogs may be improved by increasing the spatial distribution of the population and improving gene flow between the subpopulations. Construction or restoration of wetlands in the landscape between the clusters has the potential to address each of these objectives.