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Multilocus phylogeography of the common lizard Zootoca vivipara at the Ibero-Pyrenean suture zone reveals lowland barriers and high-elevation introgression

Borja Milá1*, Yann Surget-Groba2, Benoît Heulin3, Alberto Gosá4 and Patrick S Fitze1567

Author Affiliations

1 National Museum of Natural Sciences, Spanish Research Council (CSIC), José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid 28006, Spain

2 Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, P. R China

3 Station Biologique, CNRS UMR 6553, Paimpont 35380, France

4 Herpetology Department, Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi, San Sebastián 20014, Spain

5 ARAID Foundation, Zaragoza 50004, Spain

6 Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (IPE-CSIC), Jaca 22700, Spain

7 Université de Lausanne, Department of Ecology and Evolution (DEE), Biophore, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:192  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-192

Published: 10 September 2013



The geographic distribution of evolutionary lineages and the patterns of gene flow upon secondary contact provide insight into the process of divergence and speciation. We explore the evolutionary history of the common lizard Zootoca vivipara (= Lacerta vivipara) in the Iberian Peninsula and test the role of the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Mountains in restricting gene flow and driving lineage isolation and divergence. We also assess patterns of introgression among lineages upon secondary contact, and test for the role of high-elevation trans-mountain colonisations in explaining spatial patterns of genetic diversity. We use mtDNA sequence data and genome-wide AFLP loci to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships among lineages, and measure genetic structure.


The main genetic split in mtDNA corresponds generally to the French and Spanish sides of the Pyrenees as previously reported, in contrast to genome-wide AFLP data, which show a major division between NW Spain and the rest. Both types of markers support the existence of four distinct and geographically congruent genetic groups, which are consistent with major topographic barriers. Both datasets reveal the presence of three independent contact zones between lineages in the Pyrenean region, one in the Basque lowlands, one in the low-elevation mountains of the western Pyrenees, and one in the French side of the central Pyrenees. The latter shows genetic evidence of a recent, high-altitude trans-Pyrenean incursion from Spain into France.


The distribution and age of major lineages is consistent with a Pleistocene origin and a role for both the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Mountains in driving isolation and differentiation of Z. vivipara lineages at large geographic scales. However, mountain ranges are not always effective barriers to dispersal, and have not prevented a recent high-elevation trans-Pyrenean incursion that has led to asymmetrical introgression among divergent lineages. Cytonuclear discordance in patterns of genetic structure and introgression at contact zones suggests selection may be involved at various scales. Suture zones are important areas for the study of lineage formation and speciation, and our results show that biogeographic barriers can yield markedly different phylogeographic patterns in different vertebrate and invertebrate taxa.

Cytonuclear incongruence; Gene flow; Phylogeography; Secondary contact; Speciation; Vicariance