Natural selection, Gene flow, Genetic drift, Cline, Biogeography, Phylogeography, Genetic Structure, Southeastern United States, Amphibian, Anura, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris, Genetic load, Fragmentation;


Understanding how migration, genetic drift, and natural selection interact to maintain the genetic and phenotypic variation we observe in natural populations is a central goal of population genetics. Amphibians provide excellent model organisms for investigating the interplay between these evolutionary forces because amphibians are generally characterized by limited dispersal abilities, high philopatry, and are obligately associated with the areas around suitable habitats (e.g. breeding ponds). Thus, on relatively small geographic scales, the relative effects of all of these evolutionary forces can be studied together. Here, we study the interaction of migration, genetic drift, natural selection, and historical process in the ornate chorus frog (Pseudacris ornata). We report the development and characterization of 10 polymorphic microsatellite genetic markers. Number of alleles per locus ranged from 2 to 21 averaging 9.2 and expected heterozygosities ranged from 0.10 to 0.97 averaging 0.52. However, in an analysis of two populations, three locus-by-population comparisons exhibited significant heterozygote deficiencies and indicated that null alleles may be present some loci. Furthermore, we characterized genetic structure and historical biogeographic patterns in P. ornata using these microsatellite markers along with mitochondrial DNA sequence data. Our data indicate that in these frogs, migration may play a large role in determining population structure as pairwise estimates of FST were relatively small ranging from 0.04 to 0.12 (global FST = 0.083). Additionally, we observed an overall pattern of isolation-by-distance in neutral genetic markers across the species range. Moreover, our data suggest that the Apalachicola River basin does not impede gene flow in P. ornata as it does in many vertebrate taxa. Interestingly, we identified significant genetic structure between populations separated by only 6 km. However, this fine scale genetic structure was only present in the more urbanized of two widespread sampling localities. Finally, in this study, we demonstrated that there was a significant correlation between the frequency of green frogs and latitude. There was a higher frequency of green frogs in southern samples and a lower frequency of green frogs in northern samples. However, when we interpreted this phenotypic cline in light of the overall pattern of isolation-by-distance, it was apparent that the neutral evolutionary forces of genetic drift and migration could explain the cline, and the invocation of natural selection was not necessary.


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Graduation Date





Hoffman, Eric


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

September 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Included in

Biology Commons