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      Underestimation of Species Richness in Neotropical Frogs Revealed by mtDNA Analyses


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          Amphibians are rapidly vanishing. At the same time, it is most likely that the number of amphibian species is highly underestimated. Recent DNA barcoding work has attempted to define a threshold between intra- and inter-specific genetic distances to help identify candidate species. In groups with high extinction rates and poorly known species boundaries, like amphibians, such tools may provide a way to rapidly evaluate species richness.


          Here we analyse published and new 16S rDNA sequences from 60 frog species of Amazonia-Guianas to obtain a minimum estimate of the number of undescribed species in this region. We combined isolation by distance, phylogenetic analyses, and comparison of molecular distances to evaluate threshold values for the identification of candidate species among these frogs.

          Principal Findings

          In most cases, geographically distant populations belong to genetically highly distinct lineages that could be considered as candidate new species. This was not universal among the taxa studied and thus widespread species of Neotropical frogs really do exist, contrary to previous assumptions. Moreover, the many instances of paraphyly and the wide overlap between distributions of inter- and intra-specific distances reinforce the hypothesis that many cryptic species remain to be described. In our data set, pairwise genetic distances below 0.02 are strongly correlated with geographical distances. This correlation remains statistically significant until genetic distance is 0.05, with no such relation thereafter. This suggests that for higher distances allopatric and sympatric cryptic species prevail. Based on our analyses, we propose a more inclusive pairwise genetic distance of 0.03 between taxa to target lineages that could correspond to candidate species.


          Using this approach, we identify 129 candidate species, two-fold greater than the 60 species included in the current study. This leads to estimates of around 170 to 460 frog taxa unrecognized in Amazonia-Guianas.


          As a consequence the global amphibian decline detected especially in the Neotropics may be worse than realised.

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          Most cited references105

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          Speciation in amazonian forest birds.

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            MEGA2: molecular evolutionary genetics analysis software.

            We have developed a new software package, Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis version 2 (MEGA2), for exploring and analyzing aligned DNA or protein sequences from an evolutionary perspective. MEGA2 vastly extends the capabilities of MEGA version 1 by: (1) facilitating analyses of large datasets; (2) enabling creation and analyses of groups of sequences; (3) enabling specification of domains and genes; (4) expanding the repertoire of statistical methods for molecular evolutionary studies; and (5) adding new modules for visual representation of input data and output results on the Microsoft Windows platform. http://www.megasoftware.net. s.kumar@asu.edu
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              Phylogeography-The History and Formation of Species


                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                31 October 2007
                : 2
                : 10
                [1 ]Molecular Ecology Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
                [2 ]EA 3781 EGEE Evolution Genome Environment, Université de Provence, Centre St Charles, Marseille, France
                [3 ]Division of Evolutionary Biology, Zoological Institute, Technical University of Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany
                [4 ]Impasse Jean Galot, Montjoly, French Guiana
                [5 ]Pointe Maripa, RN2/PK35, Roura, French Guiana
                Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France
                Author notes
                * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: afo23@ 123456student.canterbury.ac.nz .

                Conceived and designed the experiments: NG AG AF. Performed the experiments: AF. Analyzed the data: AF. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: NG AG AF MV CM MB. Wrote the paper: NG AG AF MV.

                Fouquet et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 10
                Research Article
                Evolutionary Biology
                Evolutionary Biology/Animal Genetics
                Evolutionary Biology/Evolutionary Ecology



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