Linking direct and indirect data on dispersal: Isolation by slope in a headwater stream salamander

Winsor H. Lowe, Gene E. Likens, Mark A. McPeek, Don C. Buso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


There is growing recognition of the need to incorporate information on movement behavior in landscape-scale studies of dispersal. One way to do this is by using indirect indices of dispersal (e.g., genetic differentiation) to test predictions derived from direct data on movement behavior. Mark-recapture studies documented upstream-biased movement in the salamander Gyrinophilus porphyriticus (Plethodontidae). Based on this information, we hypothesized that gene flow in G. porphyriticus is affected by the slope of the stream. Specifically, because the energy required for upstream dispersal is positively related to slope, we predicted gene flow to be negatively related to change in elevation between sampling sites. Using amplified DNA fragment length polymorphisms among tissue samples from paired sites in nine streams in the Hubbard Brook Watershed, New Hampshire, USA, we found that genetic distances between downstream and upstream sites were positively related to change in elevation over standardized 1-km distances. This pattern of isolation by slope elucidates controls on population connectivity in stream networks and underscores the potential for specific behaviors to affect the genetic structure of species at the landscape scale. More broadly, our results show the value of combining direct data on movement behavior and indirect indices to assess patterns and consequences of dispersal in spatially complex ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-339
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Amphibian
  • Amplified fragment length polymorphism
  • Behavior
  • Dispersal
  • Evolution
  • Gene flow
  • Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
  • Headwater streams
  • Hubbard Brook
  • Movement
  • Plethodontidae
  • Salamander


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