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Ecological strategies predict associations between aquatic and genetic connectivity for dryland amphibians Public Deposited

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  • The study of how population genetic structure is shaped by attributes of the environment is a central scientific pursuit in ecology and conservation. But limited resources may prohibit landscape genetics studies for many threatened species, particularly given the pace of current environmental change. Understanding the extent to which species' ecological strategies-their life histories, biology, and behavior-predict patterns and drivers of population connectivity is a critical step in evaluating the potential of multi-taxa inference in landscape genetics. We present results of a landscape genetic study of three dryland amphibians: the canyon treefrog (Hyla arenicolor), red-spotted toad (Anaxyrus punctatus), and Mexican spadefoot (Spea multiplicata). These species characterize a range of ecological strategies, driven primarily by different water dependencies, enabling amphibian survival in arid and semiarid environments. We examined a suite of hypothesized relationships between genetic connectivity and landscape connectivity across species. We found a positive relationship between population differentiation and water dependency, e.g., longer larval development periods and site fidelity for reliable water sources. We also found that aquatic connectivity is important for all species, particularly when considered with topography (slope). The effect of spatial scale varied by species, with canyon treefrogs and Mexican spadefoots characterized by relatively consistent results at different scales in contrast to the stark differences in results for red-spotted toads at different scales. Using ecological information to predict relationships between genetic and landscape connectivity is a promising approach for multi-taxa inference and may help inform conservation efforts where single-species genetic studies are not possible.
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  • Mims, M. C., Phillipsen, I. C., Lytle, D. A., Kirk, E. E. H., & Olden, J. D. (2015). Ecological strategies predict associations between aquatic and genetic connectivity for dryland amphibians. Ecology, 96(5), 1371-1382. doi:10.1890/14-0490.1.sm
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  • 96
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  • 5
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  • This study was funded by the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (RC-1724). Additional funding for M. C. Mims was provided by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Grant No. DGE-0718124).
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