Phenotypic and genetic diversity in aposematic Malagasy poison frogs (genus Mantella )
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Phenotypic and genetic diversity in aposematic Malagasy poison frogs (genus Mantella )

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Intraspecific color variation has long fascinated evolutionary biologists. In species with bright warning coloration, phenotypic diversity is particularly compelling because many factors, including natural and sexual selection, contribute to intraspecific variation. To better understand the causes of dramatic phenotypic variation in Malagasy poison frogs, we quantified genetic structure and color and pattern variation across three closely related species, Mantella aurantiaca, Mantella crocea, and Mantella milotympanum. Although our restriction site‐associated DNA (RAD) sequencing approach identified clear genetic clusters, they do not align with current species designations, which has important conservation implications for these imperiled frogs. Moreover, our results suggest that levels of intraspecific color variation within this group have been overestimated, while species diversity has been underestimated. Within major genetic clusters, we observed distinct patterns of variation including: populations that are phenotypically similar yet genetically distinct, populations where phenotypic and genetic breaks coincide, and populations that are genetically similar but have high levels of within‐population phenotypic variation. We also detected admixture between two of the major genetic clusters. Our study suggests that several mechanisms—including hybridization, selection, and drift—are contributing to phenotypic diversity. Ultimately, our work underscores the need for a reevaluation of how polymorphic and polytypic populations and species are classified, especially in aposematic organisms.

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