Decoupling of genetic and phenotypic divergence in a headwater landscape

Winsor H. Lowe, Mark A. McPeek, Gene E. Likens, Bradley J. Cosentino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In stream organisms, the landscape affecting intraspecific genetic and phenotypic divergence is comprised of two fundamental components: the stream network and terrestrial matrix. These components are known to differentially influence genetic structure in stream species, but to our knowledge, no study has compared their effects on genetic and phenotypic divergence. We examined how the stream network and terrestrial matrix affect genetic and phenotypic divergence in two stream salamanders, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus and Eurycea bislineata, in the Hubbard Brook Watershed, New Hampshire, USA. On the basis of previous findings and differences in adult terrestriality, we predicted that genetic divergence and phenotypic divergence in body morphology would be correlated in both species, but structured primarily by distance along the stream network in G. porphyriticus, and by overland distance in E. bislineata. Surprisingly, spatial patterns of genetic and phenotypic divergence were not strongly correlated. Genetic divergence, based on amplified DNA fragment length polymorphisms, increased with absolute geographic distance between sites. Phenotypic divergence was unrelated to absolute geographic distance, but related to relative stream vs. overland distances. In G. porphyriticus, phenotypic divergence was low when sites were close by stream distance alone and high when sites were close by overland distance alone. The opposite was true for E. bislineata. These results show that small differences in life history can produce large differences in patterns of intraspecific divergence, and the limitations of landscape genetic data for inferring phenotypic divergence. Our results also underscore the importance of explicitly comparing how terrestrial and aquatic conditions affect spatial patterns of divergence in species with biphasic life cycles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2399-2409
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2012


  • amphibian
  • dendritic network
  • evolution
  • gene flow
  • morphology
  • salamander


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