Genetic structure and differentiation of the fire salamander Salamandra salamandra at the northern margin of its range in the Carpathians

<p>Amphibian populations occurring at the margin of the species range exhibit lower genetic variation due to strong genetic drift and long-term isolation. Limited mobility and site fidelity together with habitat changes may accelerate genetic processes leading to local extinction. Here, we analyze genetic variation of the fire salamander subspecies <em>Salamandra s. salamandra </em>inhabiting the Outer Carpathian region in Poland, at the northern border of its distribution. Nuclear DNA polymorphism based on 10 microsatellite loci of 380 individuals sampled in 11 populations were analysed to measure gene flow between subpopulations and possible long-term isolation. Mitochondrial DNA control region analysis among 17 individuals representing 13 localities was used to detect the origin of populations which colonized Northern Europe after the last glaciation. Overall, pairwise F ST’s and AMOVA test of ‘among group’ variation showed little differences in the allele frequencies and relatively high local gene flow. However, Bayesian clustering results revealed subtle structuring between eastern and western part of the studied region. Two extreme marginal populations from the Carpathian Piedmont revealed reduced genetic variation which may be attributed to strong influence of genetic drift. Only one mitochondrial DNA haplotype (type IIb) was found in all individuals and suggest that after the Last Glacial Maximum <em>Salamandra salamandra </em>migrated to the North-Western Europe from the single glacial refugium placed in the Balkan Peninsula.</p>