Most phylogeographic studies of species from the southeastern United States have shown a simple east-west division of mtDNA variation. However, a study of the salamander Ambystoma maculatum resulted in a more complex pattern that includes a close affinity between populations from the Central Highlands of Missouri and Arkansas and the Coastal Plain separated by a genetically distinct central group of populations. We test the generality of this observation by surveying mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in the closely related species A. talpoideum. An Ambystoma-specific intergenic spacer was amplified and sequenced. The 26 resulting haplotypes varied from 380 to 800 base pairs, and alignments, including the outgroup, required 101 insertions/deletions. Sequence divergence among haplotypes ranged from 0.001 to 0.758. Population subdivision was extensive (θ = 0.64). Phylogenetic analysis of A. talpoideum mtDNA sequence reveals a close relationship between the populations from the Central Highlands and the Coastal Plain. This result is similar to that obtained for A. maculatum, although the A. talpoideum clade is not as well differentiated from its sister clades. We discuss the differences and similarities between the two Ambystoma species and previous studies and call for increased focus on multiple species with similar ecologies as a way to detect subtle biogeographic events.
Corresponding Editor: B. Bowen