Genetic diversity and differentiation of the Western Leopard Toad (Sclerophrys pantherina) based on mitochondrial and microsatellite markers

Published in: African Journal of Herpetology
Volume 66, issue 1, 2017 , pages: 25–38
DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2017.1294115
Author(s): Jessica M. da SilvaKirstenbosch Research Centre, South Africa, Kevin A. FeldheimPritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, USA, G. John MeaseyKirstenbosch Research Centre, South Africa, Stephen Doucette-RiiseKirstenbosch Research Centre, South Africa, Ryan J. DanielsKirstenbosch Research Centre, South Africa, Lucas F. ChaukeKirstenbosch Research Centre, South Africa, Krystal A. TolleyKirstenbosch Research Centre, South Africa


Intraspecific genetic diversity provides the basis for evolutionary change and is therefore considered the most fundamental level of biodiversity. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and microsatellite loci are the markers most typically used in population-level studies; however, their patterns of genetic variation are not always congruent. This can result in different interpretations of the data, which can impact on management decisions, especially for threatened species. Consequently, in this study, we developed and analysed novel microsatellite markers for the Endangered Western Leopard Toad (WLT), Sclerophrys pantherina, and compared the results to previously published mtDNA data to compare the level of genetic diversity between the two molecular markers. The microsatellite evidence showed signs of a past bottleneck, yet relatively high levels of genetic diversity and low genetic differentiation between two sampling sites. In contrast, the mtDNA revealed moderate to low levels of diversity between sampling sites, and strong genetic differentiation. An explanation for the conflicting patterns may be that the current genetic signature, as depicted by the microsatellite data, is not yet reflected in the mitochondrial dataset; and, as such the data are depicting a timeline for genetic variation within the WLT. Both markers revealed important information about the two sampling sites, which can help inform conservation management of the species.

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