The Ecuadorean Andes sustains one of the most remarkable frog diversifications. In this region, nearly one in three known species of amphibians belong to the Pristimantis genus, which contains the majority of the direct-developing terrestrial frog species. Although efforts are ongoing to understand the diversity of Pristimantis, large regions of the ecosystems they occupy remain understudied, and speciation and diversity of this genus remains poorly understood. Within this context, an interesting taxon with many unresolved questions regarding patterns and process of diversification is the Pristimantis orestes species complex which is distributed across the Paramo landscape and montane forests in the eastern and western slopes of southern Ecuador. In my thesis, I present a new molecular phylogeny for the P. orestes group based on samples obtained from 62 localities in the south of Ecuador, including samples from type localities of previously described species. First, I used morphological, behavioral, biogeographical and molecular evidence to describe two new species and re-describe P. orestes sensu stricto. Next, I used the molecular phylogeny to delimit candidate species in the group and test for drivers of genetic and morphological diversification, leading to the identification of 13 previously described taxa and 28 undescribed species as part of the P. orestes group. I find evidence that elevation and features of hand morphology are both linked to differentiation among the two major clades in the P. orestes group. However, differentiation within these clades is not explained by elevation or geographical distances, and elevation and hand morphology are not correlated after controlling for phylogenetic relationships. Overall, my results suggest that diversification within the clades is largely driven by vicariance processes, but that local adaptation to microhabitats driven by morphological variation in hand structures may also contribute to speciation in this group.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Urgiles Penafiel, Veronica, "Molecular and Phenotypic Diversification of a Cryptic Group of Terrestrial Frogs from the Southern Andes of Ecuador" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 308.