Tailed frogs are distributed in high-gradient streams within the disjunct mesic forests of the Pacific Northwest and represent the basal lineage of the anurans. We sequenced 1530 nucleotides of the mitochondrial cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit two genes from 23 populations and used parsimony, maximum-likelihood, and nested-clade analyses to estimate relationships among populations and infer evolutionary processes. We found two divergent haplotype clades corresponding with inland Rocky Mountain populations and coastal populations and separated by up to 0.133 substitutions per site. Within the coastal assemblage, haplotypes formed clades by mountain range with 0.010–0.024 substitutions per site divergence among populations. Inland haplotypes exhibited minimal genetic structure, with the exception of 0.021 substitutions per site distance between populations from the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River and all other inland haplotypes. The magnitude of divergence between inland and coastal populations, as well as the paleobotanical record, suggest isolation of these lineages occurred during the late Miocene to early Pliocene, probably in response to the rise of the Cascade Mountains. Genetic structure within coastal and inland populations is consistent with isolation in refugia during the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene. Closely related inland haplotypes reflect range expansion following glaciation. The depth of divergence between inland and coastal populations supports the persistence of mesic forests within the inland Pacific Northwest throughout the Pleistocene and is congruent with patterns found in several other mesic forest species. Based on mitochondrial divergence and previous allozyme and morphological data, we recommend recognition of inland populations as a distinct species, Ascaphus montanus.
Corresponding Editor: L. Bernatchez