Leptodactylus fuscus is a neotropical frog ranging from Panamá to Argentina, to the east of the Andes mountains, and also inhabiting Margarita, Trinidad, and the Tobago islands. We performed phylogenetic analyses of 12S rRNA, 16S rRNA, tRNA-Leu, and ND1 mitochondrial (mt) DNA sequences from specimens collected across the geographic distribution of L. fuscus to examine two alternative hypotheses: (i) L. fuscus is a single, widely distributed species, or (ii) L. fuscus is a species complex. We tested statistically for geographic association and partitioning of genetic variation among mtDNA clades. The mtDNA data supported the hypothesis of several cryptic species within L. fuscus. Unlinked mtDNA and nuclear markers supported independently the distinctness of a ‘northern’ phylogenetic unit. In addition, the mtDNA data divided the southern populations into two clades that showed no sister relationship to each other, consistent with high differentiation and lack of gene flow among southern populations as suggested by allozyme data. Concordance between mtDNA and allozyme patterns suggests that cryptic speciation has occurred in L. fuscus without morphological or call differentiation. This study illustrates a case in which lineage splitting during the speciation process took place without divergence in reproductive isolation mechanisms (e.g. advertisement call in frogs), contrary to expectations predicted using a biological species framework.

Document Type


Publication Date