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Morphological and genetic diversification of pygmy and marbled newts, with the description of a new species from the wider Lisbon Peninsula (Triturus, Salamandridae)

Version 2 2024-03-20, 11:44
Version 1 2024-02-23, 09:14
journal contribution
posted on 2024-03-20, 11:44 authored by Jan W. Arntzen

Iberian populations of large-bodied newts, with Triturus marmoratus in the north and T. pygmaeus in the south of the peninsula, were studied for external morphology, mitochondrial DNA and for a panel of single nucleotide polymorphisms. This confirmed the species’ low level of interspecific hybridization and their parapatric, mosaic-like mutual range border across the peninsula. The genetic data also revealed substantial variation within T. pygmaeus, with narrow (0.43‒35.2 km) clinal transitions in the very centre of Portugal. Similar clines were observed for body size and colouration pattern. Pygmy newts in the west of Portugal are larger, with a more striped (less reticulated) green dorso-lateral colouration pattern than those in the east and south of the country. The western group of populations is described as a new species, Triturus rudolfi sp. nov., on account of a long, ca. 2.5 Ma, independent evolutionary history and limited hybridization with its sister-species T. pygmaeus, suggesting selection against hybrid offspring. The range of the newly described species may be restricted to the wider Lisbon Peninsula, stretching northwards along the Atlantic coast to the river Vouga estuary. Inland, the range border may be set by the lower Tejo River, or by the currently wide area of agricultural land at either side of that river, that may accommodate a residual hybrid zone. The close contact between both pygmy newt species is effectively limited to a ca. 20 × 40 km area directly north of the town Entroncamento, where T. rudolfi sp. nov. is sandwiched in between T. marmoratus and the river Tejo.