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Is the Danube crested newt Triturus dobrogicus polytypic? A review and new nuclear DNA data

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posted on 2016-03-30, 08:44 authored by Ben Wielstra, Judit Vörös, Jan W. Arntzen
The Danube crested newt Triturus dobrogicus has been proposed to comprise two subspecies: T. d. dobrogicus and T. d. macrosoma. Uncertainty exists in the literature over their distribution and diagnosability. We conduct a multilocus phylogeographical survey and review published data to determine whether a two taxon treatment is warranted. Newly produced and published nuclear DNA data suggest intraspecific variation in the Pannonian Plain part of the range, but with extensive genetic admixture, whereas mitochondrial DNA data shows a lack of geographical structuring in T. dobrogicus altogether. None of the studied morphological characters suggest the presence of two geographical groups in T. dobrogicus unequivocally. Although Danube Delta newts do have relatively short bodies compared to the remainder of the range (the Pannonian and Lower Danube Plains and the Dnepr Delta), we argue that this finding can be explained by phenotypic plasticity – particularly in light of the incongruent evolutionary scenario suggested by genetic data. We conclude that the total body of evidence does not support the two subspecies hypothesis and recommend that T. dobrogicus is treated as a monotypic species.