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Delimitation despite discordance: Evaluating the species limits of a confounding species complex in the face of mitonuclear discordance

Citation

Firneno, Thomas et al. (2022), Delimitation despite discordance: Evaluating the species limits of a confounding species complex in the face of mitonuclear discordance, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.j9kd51cb5

Abstract

The delimitation of species is an essential pursuit of biology, and proper taxonomies are crucial for the assessment and conservation management of organismal diversity. However, delimiting species can be hindered by a number of factors including highly conserved morphologies (e.g. cryptic species), differences in criteria of species concepts, and discordance between gene topologies (e.g. mitonuclear discordance). Here we use a taxonomically confounded species complex of toads in Central America that exhibits extensive mitonuclear discordance to test delimitation hypotheses. Our investigation integrates mitochondrial sequences, nuclear SNPs, morphology, and macroecological data to determine which taxonomy best explains the divergence and evolutionary relationships among these toads. We found that a three species taxonomy following the distributions of the nuclear SNP haplotypes offer the best explanation of the species in this complex based off of the integrated data types. Due to the taxonomic instability of this group we also discuss conservation concerns in the face of improper taxonomic delimitation. Our study provides an empirical hypothesis testing framework to assess species delimitation hypotheses in the face of cryptic morphology and mitonuclear discordance and highlights the importance that proper taxonomy has over conservation related actions.

Funding

Society of Systematic Biologists

IUP Graduate School

IUP Graduate School