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Geographic distribution, colour variation and molecular diversity of miniature frogs of the Eleutherodactylus limbatus group from Cuba

Ariel Rodríguez, Roberto Alonso, José Antonio Rodríguez, Miguel Vences
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Journal Article
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The endemic Cuban Eleutherodactylus limbatus group contains five species of miniature species of frogs (E. cubanus, E. iberia, E. jaumei, E. limbatus, E. orientalis), and one larger and more generalized species (E. etheridgei). Several of the miniature species have contrasting colour patterns with bright yellow or white stripes on a dark dorsum, and two of these species are known to sequester skin alkaloids. Based on a review of literature, museum data and numerous own, unpublished field records we provide an updated list of georeferenced locality records of all species of the group that confirms their strict allopatric distribution pattern despite the close geographic proximity of some species. A phylogenetic tree based on newly analysed partial DNA sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (566 bp) placed the dull-coloured species E. etheridgei and E. cubanus in a basal position, followed by a well-differentiated E. orientalis, and a highly supported but poorly differentiated clade containing E. iberia, E. jaumei and E. limbatus. In addition to these three forms, this clade also included various subclades with a similar degree of differentiation, which rendered paraphyletic the formally described species, indicating the need for a taxonomic revision. The evolution of contrasting dorsal colour patterns (dorsolateral stripes on a dark brown, light brown or yellow dorsum) apparently was characterized by homoplasy. The highest diversity of this group is concentrated in small areas in the eastern mountains, and the population of E. limbatus sampled from western Cuba was genetically similar to an eastern Cuban population, suggesting that only one relatively shallow evolutionary lineage might have succeeded in expanding its range into the west of the island.

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