Parapatric divergence of sympatric morphs in a salamander: Incipient speciation on Long Island?

M. Caitlin Fisher-Reid, Tag N. Engstrom, Caitlin A. Kuczynski, Patrick R. Stephens, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Speciation is often categorized based on geographic modes (allopatric, parapatric or sympatric). Although it is widely accepted that species can arise in allopatry and then later become sympatrically or parapatrically distributed, patterns in the opposite direction are also theoretically possible (e.g. sympatric lineages or ecotypes becoming parapatric), but such patterns have not been shown at a macrogeographic scale. Here, we analyse genetic, climatic, ecological and morphological data and show that two typically sympatric colour morphs of the salamander Plethodon cinereus (redback and leadback) appear to have become parapatrically distributed on Long Island, New York, with pure-redback populations in the west and pure-leadback populations in the east (and polymorphic populations in between and on the mainland). In addition, the pure-leadback populations in eastern Long Island are genetically, ecologically and morphologically divergent from both mainland and other Long Island populations, suggesting the possibility of incipient speciation. This parapatric separation seems to be related to the different ecological preferences of the two morphs, preferences which are present on the mainland and across Long Island. These results potentially support the idea that spatial segregation of sympatric ecotypes may sometimes play an important part in parapatric speciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4681-4694
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Plethodontidae
  • amphibians
  • biogeography
  • climate
  • morphology
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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