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Herpetological Conservation and Biology




Variation allows populations to adapt to changing conditions. As human activities continue to alter environments and evolutionary processes, it becomes increasingly important to conserve standing genetic variation. Despite technical advances in population genetics, it is still useful to have inexpensive methods of detecting and monitoring genetic variation, particularly in traits that potentially influence fitness. In the Northern Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens (= Rana pipiens), genetically determined color (green [dominant: G] or brown [recessive: g]) and two pigment pattern polymorphisms (Burnsi/spotless [B] or spotted [b]; Kandiyohi/mottled [K] or non-mottled[k]) are hypothesized to have adaptive benefits. We assessed spatiotemporal patterns of these polymorphisms during two time periods in one of the largest remaining grasslands in North America. The frequency of the dominant green phenotype remained consistent from the early-to-late 2000s; however, we observed Kandiyohi phenotypes more frequently during 2001–2002 compared to 2009–2010. By contrast, we observed dominant Burnsi phenotypes more frequently in the latter time period. Although not statistically significant, we observed green phenotypes more frequently in areas with less water on the landscape and in locations closer to tree cover. Burnsi phenotypes were more common in wetlands that did not dry out and Kandiyohi phenotypes were more common in wetlands with aquatic vegetation, although not significantly. No pigment polymorphism was associated with body size. We found no indication of spatial structure, suggesting ample gene flow. The correlations were generally weak, but some were consistent with hypotheses of adaptive benefits. This genetically determined phenotypic variation could be important under changing climactic conditions or if land uses change.



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