Is geographic variation within species related to macroevolutionary patterns between species?

M. C. Fisher-Reid, J. J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The relationship between microevolution and macroevolution is a central topic in evolutionary biology. An aspect of this relationship that remains very poorly studied in modern evolutionary biology is the relationship between within-species geographic variation and among-species patterns of trait variation. Here, we tested the relationship between climate and morphology among and within species in the salamander genus Plethodon. We focus on a discrete colour polymorphism (presence and absence of a red dorsal stripe) that appears to be related to climatic distributions in a common, wide-ranging species (Plethodon cinereus). We find that this trait has been variable among (and possibly within) species for >40 million years. Furthermore, we find a strong relationship among species between climatic variation and within-species morph frequencies. These between-species patterns are similar (but not identical) to those in the broadly distributed Plethodon cinereus. Surprisingly, there are no significant climate-morphology relationships within most other polymorphic species, despite the strong between-species patterns. Overall, our study provides an initial exploration of how within-species geographic variation and large-scale macroevolutionary patterns of trait variation may be related.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1502-1515
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Amphibians
  • Climate
  • Evolution
  • Geographic variation
  • Macroevolution
  • Polymorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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