The relative importance of natural selection and genetic drift in determining patterns of phenotypic diversity observed in nature is still unclear. The natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) is one of a few amphibian species capable of breeding in saline ponds, even though water salinity represents a considerable stress for them. Results from two common-garden experiments showed a pattern of geographic variation in embryonic salinity tolerance among populations from either fresh or brackish environments, consistent with the hypothesis of local adaptation. Full-sib analysis showed increased variation in survival among sibships within population for all populations as osmotic stress was increased (broad-sense heritability increased as salinity raised). Nevertheless, toads native to the brackish water environment had the highest overall survival under brackish conditions. Levels of population genetic differentiation for salinity tolerance were higher than those of neutral genetic differentiation, the latter obtained through the analysis of eight microsatellite loci. Microsatellite markers also revealed little population differentiation, lack of an isolation-by-distance pattern, and moderate gene flow connecting the populations. Therefore, environmental stress tolerance appears to have evolved in absence of geographic isolation, and consequently we reject the null hypothesis of neutral differentiation.
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Vol. 58 • No. 10