Phylogeography of Bufo marinus from its natural and introduced ranges

R.W. Slade, C. Moritz


The marine toad, Bufo marinus, has a broad natural distribution extending from the south–west of the USA to southern Peru and the central Amazon. It was introduced to several localities in the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans to control sugar cane pests. We sequenced 468 bp of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) containing the ND3 gene, and flanking tRNA genes from toads spanning the broad natural and introduced ranges. Consistent with the known history of introductions and expected effects of serial bottlenecks, mtDNA within introduced populations in Hawaii and Australia was uniform and most closely related to samples from eastern Venezuela and French Guiana. However, mtDNA nucleotide diversity in the geographic region spanning the source areas is also relatively low (0.18 to 0.46%) and the absence of variation in the introduced populations precludes quantitative assessment of the reduction in genetic diversity. Unexpectedly, there was a large phylogeographic break (5.4% sequence divergence) within the natural range separating populations east and west of the Venezuelan Andes. We hypothesize that the two major lineages of B. marinus were isolated by the uplift of the eastern Andean cordillera which was completed approximately 2.7 Ma. Another species of the marinus group, B. paracnemis, had mtDNA paraphyletic, with marinus, being nested within the eastern lineage. Thus, at least one speciation event within the marinus group postdates the split within marinus. These findings suggest that the taxonomy of B. marinus should be re–evaluated and that the search for pathogens to control Australian populations should be conducted in populations from both lineages in the natural range.