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Contrasting environmental drivers of genetic of genetic and phenotypic divergence in an Andean poison frog


Páez-Vacas, Mónica; Funk, W. Chris; Trumbo, Daryl (2022), Contrasting environmental drivers of genetic of genetic and phenotypic divergence in an Andean poison frog, Dryad, Dataset,


Phenotypic and genetic divergence are shaped by the homogenizing effects of gene flow and the differentiating processes of genetic drift and local adaptation. Herein, we examined the mechanisms that underlie phenotypic (size and color) and genetic divergence in 35 populations (535 individuals) of the poison frog Epipedobates anthonyi along four elevational gradients (0–1800 m asl) in the Ecuadorian Andes. We found phenotypic divergence in size and color despite relatively low genetic divergence at neutral microsatellite loci. Genetic and phenotypic divergence were both explained by landscape resistance between sites (isolation-by-resistance, IBR), likely due to a cold and dry mountain ridge between the northern and southern elevational transects that limits dispersal and separates two color morphs. Moreover, environmental differences among sites also explained genetic and phenotypic divergence, suggesting isolation-by-environment (IBE). When northern and southern transects were analyzed separately, genetic divergence was predicted either by distance (isolation-by-distance, IBD; northern) or environmental resistance between sites (IBR; southern). In contrast, phenotypic divergence was primarily explained by environmental differences among sites, supporting the IBE hypothesis. These results indicate that although distance and geographic barriers are important drivers of population divergence, environmental variation has a two-fold effect on population divergence. On the one hand, landscape resistance between sites reduces gene flow (IBR), while on the other hand, environmental differences among sites exert divergent selective pressures on phenotypic traits (IBE). Our work highlights the importance of studying both genetic and phenotypic divergence to better understand the processes of population divergence and speciation along ecological gradients.