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Ichthyology and Herpetology


A recent study reported widespread hybridization between the Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) and the Northern Ravine Salamander (P. electromorphus) in northern Ohio. In this study, DNA sequence data were obtained from three nuclear loci and 20 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified from the sequences. They found that 48 out of 90 individuals from 13 populations were hybrids, and in some localities every individual possessed an admixed genotype. As these results contradict our observations, and because levels of hybridization impact our interpretation of past and ongoing studies, we revisited the data. First we reanalyzed the original SNPs using STRUCTURE, then we repeated the analysis using haplotypes instead of SNPs. We found that K1⁄4 2 was best supported by both analyses, and they agree in recovering lower levels of hybridization than originally reported. For example, five populations in the original study identified as highly admixed or composed entirely of admixed genotypes we found to be pure P. cinereus or to lack evidence of extensive admixture. Similar results were obtained using NEWHYBRIDS and analyses based on gene trees. We conclude that while hybridization between P. cinereus and P. electromorphus occurs, it is much more restricted than originally reported.

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