The advent of genomic methods allows us to revisit the evolutionary history of organismal groups for which robust phylogenies are still lacking, particularly in species complexes that frequently hybridize. In this study, we conduct RAD-sequencing (RAD-seq) analyses of midwife toads (genus Alytes), an iconic group of western Mediterranean amphibians famous for their parental care behavior, but equally infamous for the difficulties to reconstruct their evolutionary history. Through admixture and phylogenetic analyses of thousands of loci, we provide a comprehensive phylogeographic framework for the A. obstetricans complex, as well as a fully resolved phylogeny for the entire genus. As part of this effort, we carefully explore the influence of different sampling schemes and data filtering thresholds on tree reconstruction, showing that several, slightly different, yet robust topologies may be retrieved with small datasets obtained by stringent SNP calling parameters, especially when admixed individuals are included. In contrast, analyses of incomplete but larger datasets converged on the same phylogeny, irrespective of the reconstruction method used or the proportion of missing data. The Alytes tree features three Miocene-diverged clades corresponding to the proposed subgenera Ammoryctis (A. cisternasii), Baleaphryne (A. maurus, A. dickhilleni and A. muletensis), and Alytes (A. obstetricans complex). The latter consists of six evolutionary lineages, grouped into three clades of Pliocene origin, and currently delimited as two species: (1) A. almogavarii almogavarii and A. a. inigoi; (2) A. obstetricans obstetricans and A. o. pertinax; (3) A. o. boscai and an undescribed taxon (A. o. cf. boscai). These results contradict the mitochondrial tree, due to past mitochondrial captures in A. a. almogavarii (central Pyrenees) and A. o. boscai (central Iberia) by A. obstetricans ancestors during the Pleistocene. Patterns of admixture between subspecies appear far more extensive than previously assumed from microsatellites, causing nomenclatural uncertainties, and even underlying the reticulate evolution of one taxon (A. o. pertinax). All Ammoryctis and Baleaphryne species form shallow clades, so their taxonomy should remain stable. Amid the prevalence of cyto-nuclear discordance among terrestrial vertebrates and the usual lack of resolution of conventional nuclear markers, our study advocates for phylogeography based on next-generation sequencing, but also encourages properly exploring parameter space and sampling schemes when building and analyzing genomic datasets.

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Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Staff publications

Ambu, Johanna, Martínez-Solano, Íñigo, Suchan, Tomasz, Hernandez, Axel, Wielstra, B., Crochet, Pierre-André, & Dufresnes, Christophe. (2023). Genomic phylogeography illuminates deep cyto-nuclear discordances in midwife toads (Alytes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 183, 107783–107783. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2023.107783