Genetic diversity and structure in Canadian northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) populations: implications for reintroduction programs


Gregory A. Wilson, Tara L. Fulton, Kris Kendell, Gary Scrimgeour, Cynthia A. Paszkowski, and David W. Coltman


NRC Research Press Website 86:863-874; 2008


The northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens Schreber, 1782) underwent a large decline in the western portion of its range and only occurs in 20% of historically occupied sites in Alberta. Its absence may reflect an inability to disperse to these sites because of habitat fragmentation, and human-mediated translocation has been proposed. In this study, we used three criteria to examine the genetic suitability of potential translocation sources: diversity, similarity to area of reintroduction, and evolutionary history. We genotyped 187 samples and sequenced 812 bp of the mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase 1 gene from 14 Canadian northern leopard frog populations. Nuclear and mitochondrial diversity were highest in Manitoba and western Ontario and declined westward. There was no significant relationship between genetic and geographic distance, suggesting that genetic drift is a driving force affecting the genetic relationships between populations. Regions separated by more than ~50 km were quite differentiated. Therefore, source populations similar to the original inhabitants of an area for reintroduction may be uncommon. Mitochondrial analyses revealed that all populations share a close evolutionary history, belonging to the western haplotype group. While genetic criteria support the use of Manitoba and Ontario as sources, the desirability of environmental similarity to the reintroduction site suggests that ecologically exchangeable Alberta populations should also be considered.