Cross-species testing of nuclear markers in Pelophylax water frogs in Greece and examination of their power to detect genetic admixture
The genus Pelophylax has been considered a model organism for understanding hybridization. Despite being the most diverse within the Western Palearctic group of Pelophylax, the ridibundus/bedriagae lineage that includes six species, remains largely understudied, revealing many knowledge gaps in regards to their evolution and conservation. Using genetic data from populations among species inhabiting contact zones could prove vital in filling these gaps. We tested 17 microsatellite markers for cross-species amplification in mainland Pelophylax species distributed in southern Balkans and evaluated their power to successfully detect population/species structure. Importantly, we examined their potential for identifying hybrids and backcrosses between known hybridized species. We detected 12 highly polymorphic loci that cross-amplified all species that showed no significant Linkage Disequilibrium and were able to discriminate among species and between parental and hybrids. We suggest their future use in genetic studies for the genus Pelophylax in Greece, including the identification of contact zones.