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Genetic diversity and gene flow decline with elevation in the Near Eastern fire salamander (Salamandra infraimmaculata) at Mount Hermon, Golan Heights

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posted on 24.11.2020, 10:28 by Kathleen Preißler, Eliane Küpfer, Fabian Löffler, Arlo Hinckley, Leon Blaustein, Sebastian Steinfartz
The Near Eastern fire salamander (Salamandra infraimmaculata) reaches its southern distribution range in Israel. Although the population structure has been analysed in central Israel and at the southern distribution limit, we lack knowledge on populations in the northern area, such as along Mount Hermon. S. infraimmaculata occurs at Mt. Hermon along an altitudinal gradient and appears to be fragmented by urban and agricultural landscape. We studied the genetic structure of four populations based on microsatellite loci and the mitochondrial D-loop to determine the genetic diversity and connectivity between populations. We observed moderate gene flow at lower parts, i.e. from Tel Dan and Nimrod Castle to Banias indicating extant but limited connectivity. Genetic diversity and gene flow declined along the altitudinal gradient at Mt. Hermon, reaching rock-bottom levels in the highest located population of Nimrod Pool. The observed isolation-by-elevation gradient might induce a higher extinction risk for the highland populations of S. infraimmaculata.

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