One Species, Three Pleistocene Evolutionary Histories: Phylogeography of the Italian Crested Newt, Triturus carnifex
Phylogeographic patterns of temperate species from the Mediterranean peninsulas have been investigated intensively. Nevertheless, as more phylogeographies become available, either unique patterns or new lines of concordance continue to emerge, providing new insights on the evolution of regional biotas. Here, we investigated the phylogeography and evolutionary history of the Italian crested newt, Triturus carnifex, through phylogenetic, molecular dating and population structure analyses of two mitochondrial gene fragments (ND2 and ND4; overall 1273 bp). We found three main mtDNA lineages having parapatric distribution and estimated divergence times between Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene. One lineage (S) was widespread south of the northern Apennine chain and was further geographically structured into five sublineages, likely of Middle Pleistocene origin. The second lineage (C) was widespread throughout the Padano–Venetian plain and did not show a clear phylogeographic structure. The third lineage (N) was observed in only two populations located on western Croatia/Slovenia. Results of analysis of molecular variance suggested that partitioning populations according to the geographic distribution of these lineages and sublineages explains 76% of the observed genetic variation. The phylogeographic structure observed within T. carnifex and divergence time estimates among its lineages, suggest that responses to Pleistocene environmental changes in this single species have been as diverse as those found previously among several codistributed temperate species combined. Consistent with the landscape heterogeneity, physiographic features, and palaeogeographical evolution of its distribution range, these responses encompass multiple refugia along the Apennine chain, lowland refugia in large peri-coastal plains, and a ‘cryptic’ northern refugium.