Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Pleistocene glacial cycles drove lineage diversification and fusion in the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus)


Maier, Paul A. et al. (2022), Pleistocene glacial cycles drove lineage diversification and fusion in the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus), Dryad, Dataset,


Pleistocene glacial cycles drove lineage diversification and fusion in the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus)

Species endemic to alpine environments can evolve via steep ecological selection gradients between lowland and upland environments. Additionally, many alpine environments have faced repeated glacial episodes over the past two million years, fracturing these endemics into isolated populations. In this “glacial pulse” model of alpine diversification, cycles of allopatry and ecologically divergent glacial refugia play a role in generating biodiversity, including novel admixed (“fused”) lineages. We tested for patterns of glacial pulse lineage diversification in the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus [Bufo] canorus), an alpine endemic tied to glacially influenced meadow environments. Using double-digest RADseq on populations densely sampled from a portion of the species range, we identified nine distinct lineages with divergence times ranging from 18–724 ka, coinciding with multiple Sierra Nevada glacial events. Three lineages have admixed origins, and demographic models suggest these fused lineages have persisted throughout past glacial cycles. Directionality indices supported the hypothesis that some lineages recolonized Yosemite from east of the ice sheet, whereas other lineages remained in western refugia. Finally, refugial niche reconstructions suggest that low- and high-elevation lineages have convergently adapted to similar climatic niches. Our results suggest glacial cycles and refugia may be important crucibles of adaptive diversity across deep evolutionary time.


Gene pool boundaries for the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus) reveal asymmetrical migration within meadow neighborhoods

The Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus [Bufo] canorus) is a federally threatened species of meadow-specializing amphibian endemic to the high-elevation Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The species is one of the first amphibians to undergo a large demographic collapse that was well documented, and is reputed to remain in low abundance throughout its range. Recent phylogeographic work has demonstrated that Pleistocene toad lineages diverged and then admixed to differing extents across an elevational gradient. Although lineage divisions may have significant effects on evolutionary trajectories over large spatial and temporal scales, present-day population dynamics must be delineated in order to manage and conserve the species effectively. In this study, we used a double-digest RADseq dataset to address three primary questions: (1) Are single meadows or neighborhoods of nearby meadows most correlated with population boundaries? (2) Does asymmetrical migration occur among neighborhoods of nearby meadows? (3) What topographic or hydrological variables predict such asymmetrical migration in these meadow neighborhoods? Hierarchical STRUCTURE and AMOVA analyses suggested that populations are typically circumscribed by a single meadow, although 84% of meadows exist in neighborhoods of at least two meadows connected by low levels of migration, and over half (53%) of neighborhoods examined display strong asymmetrical migration. Meadow neighborhoods often contain one or more large and flat “hub” meadows that experience net immigration, surrounded by smaller and topographically rugged “satellite” meadows with net emigration. Hubs tend to contain more genetic diversity and could be prioritized for conservation and habitat management and as potential sources for reestablishment efforts.


Landscape genetics of a sub-alpine toad: Climate change predicted to induce upward range shifts via asymmetrical migration corridors

Climate change is expected to have a major hydrological impact on the core breeding habitat and migration corridors of many amphibians in the 21st century. The Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus) is a species of meadow-specializing amphibian endemic to the high-elevation Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Despite living entirely on federal lands, it has recently faced severe extirpations, yet our understanding of climatic influences on population connectivity is limited. In this study, we used a previously published double-digest RADseq dataset along with numerous remotely sensed habitat features in a landscape genetics framework to answer two primary questions in Yosemite National Park: (1) Which fine-scale climate, topographic, soil, and vegetation features most facilitate meadow connectivity? (2) How is climate change predicted to influence both the magnitude and net asymmetry of genetic migration? We developed an approach for simultaneously modeling multiple toad migration paths, akin to circuit theory, except raw environmental features can be separately considered. Our workflow identified the most likely migration corridors between meadows and used the unique cubist machine learning approach to fit and forecast environmental models of connectivity. We identified the permuted modeling importance of numerous snowpack-related features, such as runoff and groundwater recharge. Our results highlight the importance of considering phylogeographic structure, and asymmetrical migration in landscape genetics. We predict an upward elevational shift for this already high elevation species, as measured by the net vector of anticipated genetic movement, and a north-eastward shift in species distribution via the network of genetic migration corridors across the park.


** Note: Multiple articles are associated with this dataset


Note: the python script was used for converting raw data (STACKS fasta file) into genotype data of many formats, which were subsequently analyzed. This includes the "micro-haplotype" and phylogenetic data described in the article. 

GitHub repository link for the script:

Please consult the README.pdf for all usage information.


U.S. Geological Survey, Ecosystems Mission Area, Natural Resource Preservation Program Research