You are on page 1of 1

Genetic Drift And Rapid Evolution Of Viviparity in insular fire salamanders

(Salamandra salamandra)
G Velo-Anton, KR Zamudio and A Cordero-Rivera



Evolution is a process wherein an organism undergoes adaptation and diversification. This phenomenon is evident in islands because their intrinsic characteristics can
assist in the isolation of potential mechanisms underlying in species formation and adaptation in local environments.
The European fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is endemic in the
southwestern Iberian Peninsula to Ukraine and Greece at the easternmost extent of its
range. This particular species of salamander are polymorphic in reproductive mode and
most females give birth to larvae that develop in aquatic areas or ovoviviparous. However, a
few populations within the range, are exhibited by females that give birth to terrestrial, fully
metamorphosed individuals or viviparous.
Transition from ovoviviparity to viviparity is considered to be an evolutionary
change. Viviparity occurs only in the Cantabrian mountains and Contabrian coast (centralnorthern Iberia; S. s. bernardezi), the southwest Pyrenees (S. s. fastuosa) and on two small
offshore islands ( San Martino & Ons) in the Atlantic ocean, 3.6 and 6 km from the northwestern coast of Spain, respectively (S. s. gallaica; Figure 1) . However, a recent study
showed that viviparity in S. s. gallaica have evolved independently, and these island forms
differ from the other two viviparous subspecies in coloration pattern, body shape and size.
In this study, the microevolutionary processes leading to reproductive and
genetic differentiation of coastal and island populations of S. salamandra are examined by
surveying genetic diversity, population structure and demographic parameters in viviparous
insular populations and ovoviviparous coastal and interior populations.

Study sites and population sampling

DNA extraction and genotyping

Genetic analyses


Island Island isolation vs seawater colonization
It is found that there is high levels of genetic differentiation and absence of
gene flow between island and coastal populations (F ST=0.181-0.287, Table 2). Moreover,
there is no evidence of colonization by rafting from the coast or intentional/ accidental anthropogenic introductions. Therefore, it supports the hypothesis that island populations of S.
salamandra (San Martio and Ons) are derived from ancestral populations that occupied the
coastal highlands before they became isolated from the mainland with rising levels approximately 8000-9000 years ago.

Two hypotheses are proposed to explain the origin of insular populations:


Table 2 Pairwise FST and 'ST values below and above the diagonal respectively

Present insular populations were isolated when coastal mountaintops became

islands due to rising sea levels approximately 9000 years ago and under this scenario
it is expected to find high genetic differentiation with low or no signals of gene flow
between island and mainland (coastal and interior) populations.
Island viviparous were established by seawater colonization or intentional/accidental
anthropogenic introductions from mainland populations and in this case it is expected
to find low genetic divergence.

Table 1 Sampling information and genetic diversity values for each population

Population genetics of island and mainland S . s . gallaica

The island and coastal populations have less genetic diversity and lower
historical population sizes and growth rates than interior populations (Table 1), and they also
differ in historical and recent demographic patterns . This similar differentiation between the
island and coastal populations compared with island and interior populations (Table 2) might
be explained by the later occurrence of isolation due to sea level changes for the coastal
Potential factors for the evolution of viviparity in island populations
Rapid genetic differentiation and drift could lead to the evolution of viviparity
via the selection of this trait and increase its frequency in isolated populations. However,
genetic drift alone did not lead to the evolution to viviparity in two island populations. This
implies that selective pressures in island environments might favor viviparity as a reproductive strategy. The potential selective pressures being referred to may include:
A) inadequate water bodies (applicable only in San Martio population)
B) dry climate hypothesis



Figure 1. Sampling design and distribution of Iberian S. salamandra subspecies.The ranges of S. salamandra
subspecies are represented on the map on the right.S. s. bernadezi and western populations of S.s. fastuosa
are viviparous.The map on the left shows sampling localities included in this study. Ovoviviparous populations
are represented by black circles and viviparous populations by black stars.

Sampling localities, sample sizes (N), mean number of alleles (NA), observed(HO), expected heterozygosity
(HE),allelic richness (AR), private allelic richness (P-AR), relatedness (r), and effective population size (Ne) for
each population size.


The establishment of S. salamandra populations on the islands of San Martio and

Ons occurred before the rise of sea levels, and not due anthropogenenic introductions.
Allopatric isolation has led to the reduction of genetic diversity and rapid genetic
differentiation by extreme genetic drift in island populations, as well as in coastal
populations, which could have been continental islands as recently as 2000 years
ago .
The rapid transition to viviparity might be driven by climatic selective pressures on
island populations, geographic isolation with genetic drift or a combination of these