An extended mtDNA phylogeography for the alpine newt illuminates the provenance of introduced populations
Many herpetofauna species have been introduced outside of their native range. MtDNA barcoding is regularly used to determine the provenance of such populations. The alpine newt has been introduced across the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Ireland. However, geographical mtDNA structure across the natural range of the alpine newt is still incompletely understood and certain regions are severely undersampled. We collect mtDNA sequence data of over seven hundred individuals, from both the native and the introduced range. The main new insights from our extended mtDNA phylogeography are that 1) haplotypes from Spain do not form a reciprocally monophyletic clade, but are nested inside the mtDNA clade that covers western and eastern Europe; and 2) haplotypes from the northwest Balkans form a monophyletic clade together with those from the Southern Carpathians and Apuseni Mountains. We also home in on the regions where the distinct mtDNA clades meet in nature. We show that four out of the seven distinct mtDNA clades that comprise the alpine newt are implicated in the introductions in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ireland. In several introduced localities, two distinct mtDNA clades co-occur. As these mtDNA clades presumably represent cryptic species, we urge that the extent of genetic admixture between them is assessed from genome-wide nuclear DNA markers. We mobilized a large number of citizen scientists in this project to support the collection of DNA samples by skin swabbing and underscore the effectiveness of this sampling technique for mtDNA barcoding.