New insights on patterns of genetic admixture and phylogeographic history in Iberian high mountain populations of midwife toads

Lucati, Federica; Miró, Alexandre; Bosch, Jaime; Caner, Jenny; Jowers, Michael J.; Rivera, Xavier; Donaire-Barroso, David; Rebelo, Rui; Ventura, Marc. PLoS ONE 17(12): e0277298 (2022)  DIGITAL CSIC   

Multiple Quaternary glacial refugia in the Iberian Peninsula, commonly known as “refugia within refugia”, allowed diverging populations to come into contact and admix, potentially boosting substantial mito-nuclear discordances. In this study, we employ a comprehensive set of mitochondrial and nuclear markers to shed light onto the drivers of geographical differentiation in Iberian high mountain populations of the midwife toads Alytes obstetricans and A. almogavarii from the Pyrenees, Picos de Europa and Guadarrama Mountains. In the three analysed mountain regions, we detected evidence of extensive mito-nuclear discordances and/or admixture between taxa. Clustering analyses identified three major divergent lineages in the Pyrenees (corresponding to the eastern, central and central-western Pyrenees), which possibly recurrently expanded and admixed during the succession of glacialinterglacial periods that characterised the Late Pleistocene, and that currently follow a ringshaped diversification pattern. On the other hand, populations from the Picos de Europa mountains (NW Iberian Peninsula) showed a mitochondrial affinity to central-western Pyrenean populations and a nuclear affinity to populations from the central Iberian Peninsula, suggesting a likely admixed origin for Picos de Europa populations. Finally, populations from the Guadarrama Mountain Range (central Iberian Peninsula) were depleted of genetic diversity, possibly as a consequence of a recent epidemic of chytridiomycosis. This work highlights the complex evolutionary history that shaped the current genetic composition of high mountain populations, and underscores the importance of using a multilocus approach to better infer the dynamics of population divergence.