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Deep genetic structure and ecological divergence in a widespread human commensal toad.


The Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) is a human commensal species that occupies a wide variety of habitats across tropical Southeast Asia. We test the hypothesis that genetic variation in D. melanostictus is weakly associated with geography owing to natural and human-mediated dispersal facilitated by its commensal nature. Phylogenetic and population genetic analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence variation, and predictive species distribution modelling, unexpectedly recovered three distinct evolutionary lineages that differ genetically and ecologically, corresponding to the Asian mainland, coastal Myanmar and the Sundaic islands. The persistence of these three divergent lineages, despite ample opportunities for recent human-mediated and geological dispersal, suggests that D. melanostictus actually consists of multiple species, each having narrower geographical ranges and ecological niches, and higher conservation value, than is currently recognized. These findings also have implications for the invasion potential of this human commensal elsewhere, such as in its recently introduced ranges on the islands of Borneo, Sulawesi, Seram and Madagascar.

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