Genetic structure of lake and stream populations in a Pyrenean amphibian (Calotriton asper) reveals evolutionary significant units associated with paedomorphosis

Neus Oromi, Emilio Valbuena-Ureña, Anna Soler-Membrives, Felix Amat, Sebastià Camarasa, Salvador Carranza, Delfi Sanuy, Mathieu Denoël

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

7 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Blackwell Verlag GmbH Differences in environmental conditions such as those between lakes and streams can produce phenotypic variation and ultimately promote evolutionary diversification. Some species of newts and salamanders can occupy these habitats and express alternative phenotypes: metamorphs that lose gills at metamorphosis and paedomorphs that retain them at the adult stage. Whereas this process is facultative in some species, it is obligatory in others, thus suggesting that isolation and environmental pressures may have canalized developmental pathways. In this study, we focused our research on the Pyrenean brook newt, Calotriton asper, which is present in both lakes and streams, but whose fully aquatic paedomorphic individuals are only present in lakes. We aimed to determine the genetic structure and differentiation of two paedomorphic populations, including their surrounding stream and lake metamorphic populations, to test whether populations of paedomorphs can constitute evolutionary significant units. Although gene flow was identified between lakes and nearby stream populations, there was a low percentage of dispersers, and the paedomorphic populations were genetically differentiated from the populations of metamorphs. It is likely that the studied lakes have offered peculiar conditions that have allowed the development of a paedomorphic phenotype. These populations and phenotypes therefore constitute good models to understand local adaptations. As each of these populations of paedomorphs can be considered evolutionary significant units that cannot be replaced by other nearby populations in case of a population crash, conservation actions should be focused directly on them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-430
JournalJournal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • amphibians
  • conservation genetics
  • heterochrony
  • mountain lake
  • population genetics


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