Genetic identification of units for conservation in tomato frogs, genus Dyscophus

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Dyscophus antongilii and D. guineti are two morphologically very similar microhylid frogs from Madagascar of uncertain taxonomy. D. antongilii is currently included in Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and its exportation is banned completely. In contrast, D. guineti does not receive any legal protection and it is regularly exported. Field data on ecology and behaviour are to a large extent lacking. Here we report on a genetic survey of D. antongilii and D. guineti using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers. Sequences of a fragment of 501 bp of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene from one population of D. antongilii and two populations of D. guineti resulted in a single haplotype network, without haplotype sharing among the populations. However, haplotypes of D. guineti were only 1-4 mutational steps from those of D. antongilii, and did not form a clade. The analysis of eight microsatellites newly developed and standardized for D. antongilii revealed an excess of homozygotes and the absence of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. The microsatellite data clearly distinguished between D. antongilii and D. guineti, and fixed differences were observed at one locus. Although confirmation of the status of Dyscophus antongilii and D. guineti as separate species requires further data, our study supports the definition of these two taxa as different evolutionary significant units under the adaptive evolutionary conservation concept.

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