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Amphibia-Reptilia 34 (2013): 337-351

Gene flow among deeply divergent mtDNA lineages of Testudo


graeca (Linnaeus, 1758) in Transcaucasia

Viola Mashkaryan1,2,* , Melita Vamberger1,* , Marine Arakelyan2 , Nasim Hezaveh2 ,


Miguel A. Carretero3 , Claudia Corti4 , D. James Harris3 , Uwe Fritz1,**

Abstract. Using 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci and sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, we examine
gene flow in more than 100 spur-thighed tortoises from Transcaucasia and compare our findings with previously published
AFLP and mtDNA data. While mtDNA sequences correspond to three deeply divergent clades and AFLP data suggest
two distinct groups, microsatellite data indicate weak differentiation and extensive gene flow. We conclude that each
marker system reflects a distinct episode in the evolutionary history of the Testudo graeca complex, corresponding to
phases of vicariance and extensive gene flow. We hypothesize that the reciprocally monophyletic and deeply divergent
mtDNA lineages reflect old vicariance events, while the conflicting nuclear markers are the legacy of younger episodes
of extensive gene flow. The differentiation pattern found in the AFLP markers, with AFLP groups matching allopatrically
or parapatrically distributed mitochondrial lineages, is likely to be older than the microsatellite differentiation, which could
correspond to Holocene range expansions into Caucasian valleys and lower altitudes. Owing to the largely mutually exclusive
distribution ranges of the deeply divergent mtDNA lineages, their identification with distinct subspecies is a reasonable and
straightforward classification that facilitates communication and acknowledges the conspecifity of the involved evolutionary
units. Consequently, Transcaucasia constitutes an intergradation zone of T. g. armeniaca, T. g. buxtoni and T. g. ibera.

Keywords: Armenia, Caucasus, Georgia, Iran, Nagorno Karabakh, phylogeography, population genetics, tortoise.

Introduction based on morphological evidence (Chkhikvadze


and Tuniyev, 1986; Weissinger, 1987; High-
The taxonomy of spur-thighed tortoises (Tes-
field and Martin, 1989a, b, c; Highfield, 1990;
tudo graeca complex) has been in a state Chkhikvadze and Bakradze, 1991, 2002; Perl,
of flux during the past 25 years. While this 1996, 2002; Pieh, 2001; Pieh and Perl, 2002,
group had traditionally been regarded as a 2004; Chkhikvadze, Mazanaeva and Sham-
widely distributed polytypic species (Wermuth makov, 2011). As a result, some authors claimed
and Mertens, 1961, 1977; Anderson, 1979; that the T. graeca complex consists of ap-
Pritchard, 1979), many subspecies were later el- proximately 20 distinct species with mutu-
evated to species level and additional species ally exclusive allopatric or parapatric ranges in
were described or resurrected from synonymy the western Mediterranean region, the Balkan
peninsula and the Near and Middle East (for a
1 - Museum of Zoology (Museum fr Tierkunde), Senck-
review, see Guyot-Jackson, 2004; Fritz et al.,
enberg Dresden, A.B. Meyer Building, 01109 Dresden, 2007). However, molecular genetic investiga-
Germany tions found much less differentiation (van der
2 - Faculty of Biology, Yerevan State University, Alek Kuyl et al., 2002; Harris et al., 2003; van der
Manoogian 1, Yerevan, 0025, Armenia
3 - CIBIO, Centro de Investigao em Biodiversidade e
Kuyl, Ballasina and Zorgdrager, 2005; Parham
Recursos Genticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus et al., 2006; Fritz et al., 2007, 2009), with
Agrrio de Vairo, 4485-661 Vairo, Portugal only six deeply divergent mitochondrial lin-
4 - Museo di Storia Naturale dellUniversit di Firenze, eages identified. These results suggested that
Sezione di Zoologia La Specola, Via Romana, 17,
50125 Firenze, Italy
many of the morphologically defined taxa are
* These authors contributed equally to this publication. invalid and that external morphology of spur-
** Corresponding author; thighed tortoises is heavily impacted by envi-
e-mail: uwe.fritz@senckenberg.de ronmental factors (Carretero et al., 2005; Fritz et

Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013. DOI:10.1163/15685381-00002895


338 V. Mashkaryan et al.

Figure 1. Mitochondrial phylogeny of the Testudo graeca complex as inferred from ML analyses of a 1216-bp-long alignment
(cyt b gene plus adjacent DNA coding for tRNAs) of 140 ingroup sequences (data set of Fritz et al., 2007 combined with
46 sequences generated for the present study; two sequences of North African tortoises corrected according to Vamberger
et al., 2011). Terminal clades collapsed to cartoons; grey cartoons indicate that haplotypes of the respective clade were
represented among the samples sequenced for the present study. Numbers at nodes are ML bootstrap values and posterior
probabilities from Bayesian inference. Root length shortened by 80%. On the right, the correlation of mtDNA clades with
AFLP groups (Mikulicek et al., 2013) and microsatellite clusters (K = 3, this study) is shown. Note that mtDNA clades
A and E represent one and the same AFLP cluster, although they are not sister groups. Merging colours for microsatellite
data symbolize admixed individuals. The letter C in the Caucasian AFLP group indicates the occurrence of a mitochondrial
haplotype of clade C in a tortoise from Katekh, Azerbaijan, belonging to the Caucasian AFLP group (Mikulicek et al., 2013).

al., 2007). In the following, we use the terminol- In a follow-up study, Mikulicek et al. (2013)
ogy of Fritz et al. (2007) and label the six major re-examined the differentiation within the T.
mitochondrial clades by the upper-case letters graeca complex using more sensitive AFLP
A-F (fig. 1). fingerprints and found four well-differentiated
Using nuclear-genomic ISSR fingerprinting, AFLP groups. Two of these groups, the west-
a method useful in discriminating the tradi- ern Mediterranean AFLP group and the central-
tionally recognized Testudo species T. graeca, eastern Iranian AFLP group (Mikulicek et al.,
T. hermanni, T. horsfieldii, T. kleinmanni and 2013), correspond to the completely or largely
T. marginata, Fritz et al. (2007) found only allopatric mitochondrial lineages from the west-
negligible differentiation among tortoises rep- ern Mediterranean (mtDNA clade B) and east-
resenting these six mitochondrial clades and ern Iran (mtDNA clade F; fig. 1). Each of the
concluded that they are best regarded as con- remaining two AFLP clusters includes two ge-
specific. Acknowledging the deep mitochon- ographically neighbouring mtDNA clades, sug-
drial divergences, Fritz et al. (2007) proposed gestive of extensive gene flow among tortoises
to identify each clade with a distinct sub- harbouring the respective mitochondrial lin-
species, while other authors preferred to recog- eages. The Caucasian AFLP group comprises
nize no subspecies at all (Parham et al., 2006). the mtDNA clades A and E. These two clades
Gene flow in Testudo graeca 339

are not sister groups in phylogenetic analy- sponding to two AFLP clusters (Fritz et al.,
ses (fig. 1). The Balkans-Middle Eastern AFLP 2007; Mikulicek et al., 2013). We analyze our
group embraces the mtDNA clades C and D, data set with an unsupervised Bayesian clus-
which are sister groups. The ranges of these two tering approach as implemented in STRUCTURE
distinct AFLP groups abut in the central Cauca- 2.3.3 (Pritchard, Stephens and Donnelly, 2000;
sus, and in one site (Katekh, Azerbaijan) two Hubisz et al., 2009) and compare the results
tortoises were found that belonged to each of with mtDNA sequence variation and the AFLP
the two distinct AFLP groups, without any in- groups of Mikulicek et al. (2013). If distinct re-
dication of nuclear genomic admixture. On the productively isolated species were represented
other hand, both tortoises yielded haplotypes of among our samples, they should correspond
mtDNA clade C, indicating recent or past gene to clearly differentiated microsatellite clusters
flow between the Caucasian and the Balkans- with little or no evidence of gene flow. By con-
Middle Eastern AFLP groups. Since mtDNA trast, if only one more-or-less panmictic species
is known to be transferred relatively easy from were concerned, the expectation is little nuclear
one species to another as the result of inter- genomic differentiation and, in secondary con-
specific hybridization (Mallet, 2005; Currat et tact zones of distinct microsatellite clusters, ex-
al., 2008), this complicated situation raises the tensive gene flow among clusters.
question of whether distinct reproductively iso-
lated species might be involved (Mikulicek et
al., 2013), which hybridize only rarely. Materials and methods
In the present study we focus exactly on this Sampling and laboratory procedures
question: Could some of the distinct genetic lin-
DNA of 121 ethanol-preserved samples of tortoises from
eages of Caucasian spur-thighed tortoises rep- 26 sites in Armenia, Georgia, Iran and Nagorno Karabakh
resent reproductively isolated units qualifying (Appendix) was isolated using the InnuPREP DNA Mini
as Biological Species sensu Mayr (1942, 1963) Kit (Analytik Jena AG, Jena, Germany) or the NucleoSpin
Tissue Kit (Macherey-Nagel, Dren, Germany). Following
or do they alternatively represent one and the Salinas et al. (2011), the samples were genotyped using
same Biological Species? For testing these hy- 10 microsatellite loci; three or four loci each were com-
potheses, we use rapidly evolving microsatel- bined in multiplex PCRs (table 1). The final volume of each
multiplex PCR was 10 l containing 0.5 units Taq poly-
lite markers, which are an ideal tool for as- merase (Bioron, Ludwigshafen, Germany) with the buffer
sessing gene flow. We genotyped more than recommended by the supplier and a final concentration of
100 tortoises from Armenia, Georgia, Iran and 1.5 mM MgCl2 (Bioron), 0.2 mM of each dNTP (Thermo-
Scientific, St. Leon-Rot, Germany), 2 g Bovine Serum Al-
Nagorno Karabakh using 10 polymorphic mi-
bumin (Thermo-Scientific), approximately 10-20 ng of to-
crosatellite loci. The sampling region is known tal DNA and primer concentrations ranging from 0.2 M
to harbour three distinct mtDNA clades corre- to 0.8 M. Forward primers were fluorescent-labelled. The

Table 1. Microsatellite loci, multiplex sets, allele size ranges and number of alleles of the individual loci.

Locus Original reference Multiplex set Fluorescent label Allele size range [bp] Number of alleles

GmuB08 King and Julian (2004) 1 ATTO 565 195-249 17


Goag6 Edwards et al. (2003) 1 6-FAM 282-404 19
Test76 Forlani et al. (2005) 1 HEX 112-138 4
GmuD51 King and Julian (2004) 2 ATTO 550 132-224 17
Test56 Forlani et al. (2005) 2 HEX 192-274 31
Test71 Forlani et al. (2005) 2 6-FAM 119-141 10
Gp61 Schwartz et al. (2003) 3 6-FAM 179-193 6
Gp81 Schwartz et al. (2003) 3 HEX 361-363 2
Test10 Forlani et al. (2005) 3 HEX 179-241 26
Test21 Forlani et al. (2005) 3 ATTO 565 193-237 13
340 V. Mashkaryan et al.

Table 2. Testing for Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE)


PCR cycling conditions were as follows: 43 cycles with de-
using tortoises from three populations or groups of neigh-
naturation at 94C for 60 s but for 11 min in the first cy-
bouring populations with sufficient sample sizes (collecting
cle, annealing at 58C for 45 s and extension at 72C for
sites 8, 9 and sites 19-24 lumped together; see Appendix).
45 s but for 30 min in the final cycle. Fragment lengths
Yes = in HWE, no = not in HWE. Asterisks indicate pres-
were determined on an ABI 3130xl Genetic Analyzer using
ence of null alleles.
the GeneScanTM-600 LIZ Size Standard and the software
GENEMAPPER 4.0 (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, USA). Locus Population/collecting site
For 14 samples no microsatellite data could be produced,
because the respective sample was used up or PCR failed 8 9 (19-24)
consistently. GmuB08 yes yes yes
In addition, the mitochondrial cyt b gene was se- Goag6 no yes no
quenced for 46 samples representing all collecting sites (Ap- Test76 no no no
pendix). Two mtDNA fragments overlapping by approxi- GmuD51 monomorphic yes no
mately 300 bp were amplified using the primer pairs CytbG Test56 no no yes
plus mt-E-Rev2 (Spinks et al., 2004; Fritz et al., 2006) and Test71 yes yes no
mt-c-For2 plus mt-f-na (Fritz et al., 2006). PCR was per- Gp61 no no no
formed in a final volume of 20 l using 1 unit Taq poly- Gp81 monomorphic monomorphic monomorphic
merase (Bioron) with the buffer recommended by the sup- Test10 no yes yes
plier and a final concentration of 0.25 mM of each dNTP Test21 no yes no
(Thermo-Scientific), 0.5 M of each primer and approxi-
mately 10-40 ng of total DNA. The PCR cycling conditions
were as follows: 35-40 cycles with denaturation at 94C for
30 and an admixture scenario with allele frequencies cor-
45 s but for 5 min in the first cycle, annealing at 50C for
related, allowing the individuals to have mixed ancestries.
30 s, and extension at 72C for 60 s but for 10 min in the fi-
The burn-in was set to 25 104 and the number of fur-
nal cycle. PCR products were purified using the ExoSAP-IT
ther MCMC runs to 75 104 . Calculations were repeated
enzymatic cleanup (USB Europe GmbH, Staufen, Germany;
1:20 dilution; modified protocol: 30 min at 37C, 15 min 10 times for each K; convergence of likelihood values was
at 80C) and sequenced on an ABI 3130xl Genetic Ana- reached after the burn-in. Clustering results and individual
lyzer using the BigDye Terminator v3.1 Cycle Sequencing admixture were visualized using bar plots with the soft-
Kit (Life Technologies, Darmstadt, Germany) and the PCR ware DISTRUCT 1.1 (Rosenberg, 2004). In a conservative
primers. DNA sequences were aligned in BIOEDIT 7.1.11 approach following Randi (2008), individuals with propor-
(Hall, 1999) with previously published data (Fritz et al., tions for cluster membership below 80% were treated as
2007), yielding a 1216-bp-long alignment of 140 sequences having mixed ancestries.
comprising the complete cyt b gene plus adjacent DNA cod- Genetic differentiation among different subsets of the
ing for tRNAs. Two erroneous North African sequences of microsatellite data was inferred by FST values and analy-
Fritz et al. (2007) were corrected according to Vamberger et ses of molecular variance (AMOVA) using ARLEQUIN 3.11
al. (2011). GenBank accession numbers for sequences gen- (10 000 permutations). For comparing number and size of
erated for the present study are HF954117-HF954162. microsatellite alleles, a frequency table was produced us-
ing CONVERT 1.31 (Glaubitz, 2004) and locus-specific ob-
served (HO ) and expected heterozygosities (HE ) were es-
Data analysis
timated in ARLEQUIN. Locus-specific allelic richness (AR)
Pairwise linkage disequilibrium between microsatellite loci values were obtained in FSTAT 2.9.3.2 (Goudet, 1995).
and Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium were tested in ARLEQUIN Phylogenetic relationships of mtDNA sequences were
3.11 (Excoffier, Laval and Schneider, 2005) using tortoises inferred by Maximum Likelihood (ML) analyses using
from three populations or groups of neighbouring popula- RAxML 7.2.6 (Stamatakis, 2006) and the implemented evo-
tions with sufficient sample sizes (collecting sites 8, 9 and lutionary model GTR + G. Five independent ML searches
sites 19-24 lumped together; see Appendix). There was no were performed using different starting conditions and the
evidence for linkage disequilibrium, and microsatellite data fast bootstrap algorithm to explore the robustness of the
of all tortoises were then subjected to unsupervised cluster phylogenetic trees by comparing the best trees. Subse-
analysis using STRUCTURE 2.3.3 (Pritchard, Stephens and quently, 1000 non-parametric thorough bootstrap replicates
Donnelly, 2000; Hubisz et al., 2009). However, many loci were calculated and the values plotted against the best
were found to be not in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, and tree. In addition, analyses using MRBAYES 3.2.1 (Ronquist
MICRO - CHECKER 2.2.3 (van Oosterhout et al., 2004) sug- et al., 2012) were run. The best evolutionary model was
gested the presence of null alleles (table 2). Therefore, the established in JMODELTEST 0.1.1 (Posada, 2008) by the
data set was corrected for null alleles according to Falush, Bayesian Information Criterion, resulting in the TPM1uf +
Stephens and Pritchard (2007). The optimal number of clus- G model. Phylogenetic analyses were performed using two
ters was determined by the K method of Evanno, Regnaut parallel runs (each with four chains) and default parameters.
and Goudet (2005). Considering the number of collecting Both chains ran for 10 million generations with every 100th
sites for which microsatellite data were available (n = 26), generation sampled. Using a burn-in of 2.5 million genera-
population structure was modelled using an upper bound of tions, only the plateau of the most likely trees was sampled
Gene flow in Testudo graeca 341

for generating a 50% majority rule consensus. The posterior When genetic diversity indices for the dis-
probability of any individual clade in this consensus tree tinct STRUCTURE clusters (K = 3 and K =
corresponds to the percentage of all trees containing that
clade, and is a measure of clade frequency and credibility. 4) are compared and tortoises with mixed an-
In both approaches, a sequence of Testudo hermanni (Gen- cestries are excluded, the red cluster with the
Bank accession number AJ888362) served for tree-rooting. least amount of admixture has the lowest val-
Additionally, uncorrected p distances of mtDNA clades
were calculated using MEGA 5.05 (Tamura et al., 2011) and ues, with just two private alleles, despite more
the pairwise deletion option. or less even sample sizes (table 4). Fixation in-
dices (FST values) for K = 3 range from 0.12
to 0.21 (table 5), and according to an AMOVA,
Results 17% of the molecular variance occurs among
clusters and 83% within clusters. For K = 4,
The 10 studied microsatellite loci are in part
FST values range from 0.15 to 0.26 (table 5),
highly polymorphic, with allele numbers rang-
with 22% of the molecular variance occurring
ing from 2 to 31 per locus (table 1) and a to-
among clusters and 78% within clusters.
tal allele number of 145. The K method of
From a morphological point of view, our tor-
Evanno, Regnaut and Goudet (2005) suggested
toise samples represent two principal pheno-
for the STRUCTURE results four as the optimal
types, individuals with depressed shells, as orig-
number of clusters. When K = 4 is used as
inally described as typical for Testudo graeca
a framework, there is a high degree of admix-
armeniaca (Chkhikvadze and Bakradze, 1991;
ture evident. However, in some collecting sites
Pieh, Fritz and Berglas, 2002), and tortoises
more or less pure genotypes are detected be-
with domed shells, the normal character state in
sides admixed individuals (fig. 2). The phyloge-
the T. graeca complex. When morphologically
netic analyses of mtDNA sequences of tortoises
similar tortoises (M. Arakelyan, V. Mashkaryan,
representing all sites found three deeply diver-
M.A. Carretero, C. Corti, unpubl.) are lumped
gent mitochondrial lineages among the studied
together, three geographically coherent groups
samples (figs 1 and 2), corresponding to the
emerge (fig. 2: top). However, in the two north-
mtDNA clades A, C and E of Fritz et al. (2007).
ern groups (Araxes valley) there are also some
Mean uncorrected p distances of the cyt b gene
individuals whose morphological assignment to
between these and the remaining three other
the domed vs. flat phenotype is ambiguous. In
mtDNA clades of the Testudo graeca complex
any case, using microsatellite data these three
amount to 2.50-5.70%. In particular, the diver-
groups differ by FST values ranging from 0.10
gences between clades A, C and E range from
to 0.15 and they do very roughly correspond to
4.15% to 4.90% (table 3). Haplotypes of clade A
the three microsatellite clusters under K = 3,
are widely distributed in the Araxes valley and
including admixed individuals. According to an
Nagorno Karabakh, while haplotypes of clade C
AMOVA, 11% of the observed global molec-
are largely confined to the northernmost Arme-
ular variance occurs among the three morpho-
nian sites. However, in two sites in the Araxes
logical groups and 89% within the groups (tor-
valley haplotypes of clades A and C occur syn-
toises with mixed genetic ancestry included).
topically. Haplotypes of clade E are only found
in northwestern Iran (fig. 2; Appendix). None
of the three mtDNA clades corresponds to any
Discussion
of the four clusters revealed by the microsatel-
lite analyses. Also when barplots for K = 3 are In agreement with a previous paper (Fritz et
compared to mtDNA clades, the general picture al., 2007), our present investigation confirmed
does not change and the incongruity between deep mitochondrial divergences in Transcau-
mitochondrial haplotypes and nuclear-genomic casian tortoises of the Testudo graeca complex
genotypes remains (fig. 2). (table 3). In our study area occur three of the
342 V. Mashkaryan et al.
Gene flow in Testudo graeca 343

six mitochondrial clades of the T. graeca com- groups. Two of these groups perfectly corre-
plex. Compared to mtDNA variation, Mikulicek spond to mitochondrial clades in the western
et al. (2013) found less differentiation using Mediterranean and in central and eastern Iran
AFLP data (152 markers), with only four AFLP (mtDNA clade B and F, respectively). Due to
their completely allopatric or parapatric distri-
Table 3. Mean uncorrected p distances (percentages) be-
bution ranges, and hence the impossibility of
tween and within the six major mtDNA clades A-F of the
Testudo graeca complex based on the data set of Fritz et al. any recent gene flow, such a pattern is not too
(2007), merged with the sequences generated in the present surprising. Some other findings by Mikulicek
study (1144 bp cyt b). Two erroneous sequences of western et al. (2013) require more attention: (1) One of
Mediterranean tortoises of Fritz et al. (2007) were replaced
for the corrected sequences (see Vamberger et al., 2011). the two remaining AFLP groups, the so-called
Below the diagonal, divergences between clades are given Balkans-Middle Eastern AFLP group, embraces
and on the diagonal in boldface, divergences within the re- tortoises harbouring mtDNA clades C and D,
spective clade.
which are sister groups. (2) The fourth AFLP
A B C D E F group, the so-called Caucasian AFLP group, in-
A (n = 50) 0.35 cludes mtDNA clades A and E, which are not
B (n = 7) 4.48 1.02 sister groups (Fritz et al., 2007). This suggests
C (n = 27) 4.81 5.70 0.26
D (n = 37) 4.42 5.40 2.50 0.78
in both cases extensive gene flow within each
E (n = 12) 4.15 5.11 4.90 4.37 1.06 AFLP group. (3) The distribution ranges of the
F (n = 7) 3.84 3.90 4.01 3.48 3.02 0.14 Caucasian and Balkans-Middle Eastern AFLP
groups abut in Transcaucasia, and Mikulicek
et al. (2013) found two tortoises representing
Table 4. Genetic diversity of Testudo graeca, based on 10
microsatellite loci (individuals with mixed ancestries ex- each of these AFLP groups syntopically at one
cluded). Cluster names (colours) refer to fig. 2. Abbrevia-
tions: n, number of individuals; nA , number of alleles; nA , Table 5. Fixation indices (FST values) for microsatellite
average number of alleles; nP , number of private alleles; data under K = 3 and K = 4 (individuals with mixed an-
AR, allelic richness; HO , average observed heterozygosity; cestries excluded). All FST values are significantly different
HE , average expected heterozygosity. from zero.

Cluster n nA nA nP AR HO HE Cluster Red Blue Yellow Green

K=3 K=3
Red 27 43 1.59 2 4.300 0.207 0.411 Red
Blue 27 65 2.41 14 6.500 0.374 0.563 Blue 0.21
Yellow 33 120 3.64 62 11.290 0.412 0.707 Yellow 0.19 0.12

K=4 K=4
Red 25 42 1.68 2 3.838 0.252 0.438 Red
Blue 18 63 3.50 15 6.120 0.416 0.566 Blue 0.25
Yellow 16 48 3.00 4 4.800 0.306 0.459 Yellow 0.26 0.24
Green 19 106 5.58 47 9.918 0.447 0.748 Green 0.24 0.15 0.16

Figure 2. Cluster assignment of 107 spur-thighed tortoises from 26 collecting sites in Transcaucasia using STRUCTURE 2.3.3,
based on 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci. Shown are the STRUCTURE runs with the highest probability values for each K.
In the barplots, the genotype of an individual tortoise is represented by a vertical column. Below a threshold of 80% for cluster
membership, distinct colours within one column indicate mixed ancestry. The white lines in the barplots represent 20% and
the numbers below the barplots refer to collecting sites. Different collecting sites are separated by black vertical lines. Colours
of sampling sites in the maps correspond to STRUCTURE clusters; slices indicate tortoises with mixed ancestries or conflicting
cluster assignment. Top: Results for K = 3. Encircled collecting sites in the map denote morphological groups (for other
localities, no morphological data were available); the black bar approximately indicates the Lesser Caucasus. Bottom: Results
for K = 4. For encircled collecting sites, mtDNA data were available as indicated. At locality 4, four tortoises harboured
haplotypes of clade A and two of clade C. At locality 13, five tortoises yielded haplotypes of clade A and one of clade C.
Inset shows location of map section.
344 V. Mashkaryan et al.

site (Katekh, Azerbaijan), without any admix- (Pritchard, Stephens and Donnelly, 2000). How-
ture. This could indicate that the two involved ever, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium is not ex-
AFLP groups represent reproductively isolated pected in recently admixed populations.
units, and hence, that each of these units could STRUCTURE revealed the most pronounced
qualify as a full species under the Biological differentiation for the red cluster, which corre-
Species Concept (Mayr, 1942, 1963). However, sponds with some exceptions to flat-shelled
both tortoises from Katekh harboured mtDNA tortoises matching the original description of T.
haplotypes representing the same clade (clade g. armeniaca Chkhikvadze and Bakradze, 1991.
C), providing evidence either for intraspecific Such tortoises occur in a geographically quite
gene flow or interspecific introgression. isolated situation in the valley of the Araxes
If two reproductively largely isolated species River, embedded between the eastern Anato-
were involved, and the shared mitochondrial lian mountains and the Lesser Caucasus. Pos-
haplotypes of the tortoises from Katekh were sibly their flat-shelled morphotype is associated
the result of interspecific hybridization or in- with burrow-digging, while the domed tortoises
trogression, it should be expected that our corresponding to the other microsatellite clus-
microsatellite markers would reveal largely ters generally do not dig deep burrows. How-
distinct nuclear gene pools for the involved ever, neither fixation and diversity indices of
species as is the case, for instance, even in
microsatellites (tables 4 and 5) nor AFLP data
biological species which lost their original mi-
or mtDNA sequences (figs 1 and 2) support
tochondrial genome by introgressive hybridiza-
a genetic isolation of the flat-shelled tortoises.
tion (e.g. Lissotriton montandoni, Zielinski et
The flat-shelled tortoises harbour mitochondrial
al., 2013). Such distinct gene pools should cor-
haplotypes of clades A and C, which do also oc-
respond to highly distinct clusters in unsuper-
cur in tortoises with domed shells, and the Cau-
vised STRUCTURE analyses and should be char-
casian AFLP group embraces flat-shelled and
acterized by pronounced genetic differences, as
domed tortoises. Even if tortoises with mixed
reflected by many private alleles and highly dis-
ancestry are completely disregarded, FST val-
tinct fixation indices of microsatellite loci. On
ues between the red cluster and the other clus-
the other hand, if the observed mismatches be-
ters are not extraordinarily high for microsatel-
tween nuclear genomic and mitochondrial dif-
ferentiation result rather from recent secondary lites, ranging from 0.19 to 0.21 for K = 3
contact of two reproductively fully compatible and from 0.24 to 0.26 for K = 4 (table 5).
evolutionary lineages, the differentiation of dis- When topotypic individuals of mixed ancestry
tinct clusters should be rather weak and gene are included, FST values are for obvious rea-
flow should be extensive as indicated by many sons lower and amount only to 0.10-0.15. Also
individuals with mixed ancestries. Moreover, within other tortoise species, similar or even
private alleles should be rare, and fixation in- distinctly higher FST values have been reported
dices should be low. (Chelonoidis chilensis, based on 10 microsatel-
In agreement with the latter, the STRUCTURE lite loci: 0.10-0.21, Fritz et al., 2012a; Gopherus
analyses of our microsatellite data provide ev- agassizii, based on 20 microsatellite loci: 0.01-
idence for a generally high degree of admix- 0.13, Hagerty and Tracy, 2010; G. polyphe-
ture (fig. 2), with relatively few individuals mus, based on 9 microsatellite loci: 0.06-0.51,
assigned to more or less pure clusters under Schwartz and Karl, 2005; Testudo marginata,
K = 4. This high degree of admixture reflects based on 11 microsatellite loci: 0.05-0.16, Perez
the difficulties to find data partitions in Hardy- et al., 2012). Most notably, based on seven mi-
Weinberg equilibrium, one of the two main crosatellite loci FST values of up to 0.24 were
criteria of STRUCTURE for cluster delineation found within one and the same subspecies of T.
Gene flow in Testudo graeca 345

graeca, the western Mediterranean T. g. graeca tocene history is considered. We hypothesize


(Graci et al., 2013). that the deeply divergent mtDNA lineages re-
In addition, the red cluster is characterized flect old vicariance events, while the conflict-
by the lowest number of private alleles of all ing nuclear markers are the legacy of younger
(table 4). This, together with the evidence for episodes of extensive gene flow. The differenti-
a high degree of admixture and FST values ation pattern found in the AFLP markers, with
matching the differentiation within other tor- AFLP groups matching allopatrically or para-
toise species, supports the view that the T. patrically distributed mitochondrial lineages, is
graeca complex represents only one Biologi- likely to be older than the microsatellite differ-
cal Species sensu Mayr (1942, 1963), despite entiation, which could correspond to Holocene
deeply divergent mitochondrial lineages (ta- range expansions into Caucasian valleys and
ble 3). The three mtDNA clades A, C and E lower altitudes. It is expected that genealogies
occurring in our study region differ by 4.15% of some nuclear genes will also deviate, id-
to 4.90% in uncorrected p distances of the iosyncratically reflecting individual gene trees,
cyt b gene. These values exceed uncorrected p gene flow and recombination. This suggests that
distances as observed among some other con- coalescent-based species delineation attempts
generic tortoise species (3.7% to 12.7%; Fritz (e.g. Yang and Rannala, 2010) will be fraught
et al., 2012a; Kindler et al., 2012), underlining
with difficulties in sexually reproducing organ-
that species delineation in chelonians should not
isms which experienced repeated switches be-
rely on genetic distances alone (Vargas-Ramrez
tween vicariance and extensive gene flow, such
et al., 2010; Praschag et al., 2011; Stuckas and
as the T. graeca complex. Any resulting classi-
Fritz, 2011; Fritz et al., 2012a, b; Kindler et al.,
fication based on genetic coalescence along the
2012).
time axis necessarily has therefore to conflict
In phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA se-
with population genetic differentiation and gene
quences, one of the Caucasian clades, clade
flow in the here and now.
A, constitutes the sister group of the west-
Owing to the largely mutually exclusive dis-
ern Mediterranean clade B (Fritz et al., 2007,
tribution ranges of the mtDNA lineages (fig. 3),
2009; fig. 1), and another clade occurring in
the approach of Fritz et al. (2007, 2009), who
the Caucasus region, clade C, is distributed
over a highly disjunct range including parts of have identified distinct mtDNA lineages with
the Balkan peninsula, Turkey, the Russian and subspecies, is a reasonable and straightforward
Georgian Black Sea coast and the Caucasus. classification that facilitates communication and
The fossil record suggests that this patchy range acknowledges on the one hand the deep mi-
is a consequence of Pleistocene extinction (Fritz tochondrial divergences and on the other the
et al., 2007). These observations provide evi- conspecifity of the involved evolutionary units.
dence that the mitochondrial clades within T. Consequently, Transcaucasia constitutes an in-
graeca are very old. Using a fossil-calibrated tergradation zone of Testudo graeca armeni-
molecular clock, Fritz et al. (2009) estimated aca sensu Fritz et al. (2007), corresponding to
that the six major clades of T. graeca have mtDNA clade A, T. g. ibera sensu Fritz et al.
evolved approximately 4.2-1.8 million years (2007), corresponding to mtDNA clade C, and
ago. Despite these old and deep divergences, T. g. buxtoni sensu Fritz et al. (2007), corre-
microsatellite differentiation is rather weak and sponding to mtDNA clade E.
differentiation patterns of AFLP and microsatel- The observed differences among the three
lite markers are not congruent. This indicates marker systems (fig. 1) do not only provide
repeated phases of extensive gene flow and vi- insights in biogeography and taxonomy. They
cariance, which is not surprising when the Pleis- also underscore that the different modes of in-
346 V. Mashkaryan et al.

Figure 3. Distribution ranges of eastern Testudo graeca subspecies according to Fritz et al. (2007, 2009) and the present study.
The distribution of T. graeca is shown in grey. Subspecies ranges are indicated, as far as known, by hatching; cross-hatching,
secondary intergradation zones; question marks, unknown subspecies allocation.

heritance of mtDNA, AFLP and microsatellite Acknowledgements. Christian Kehlmaier, Anke Mller
markers may contribute to distinct differentia- and Anja Rauh helped in the laboratory and Christian
Kehlmaier genotyped and sequenced some of the sam-
tion patterns. Mitochondrial DNA is generally ples. Field work in Armenia and Georgia and part of the
inherited only through the maternal line (Bal- laboratory work was funded by the Gulbenkian Founda-
tion, Portugal (program Preserving Armenian biodiver-
lard and Whitlock, 2004; Currat et al., 2008), sity: Joint Portuguese-Armenian program for training in
while AFLP and microsatellite markers are bi- modern conservation biology) and by the Fundao para
parentally inherited with dominant or codom- a Cincia e a Tecnologia, FCT, Portugal (PTDC/BIA-
BEC/101256/2008). Melita Vamberger was funded by a
inant modes of inheritance, respectively (Bee- PhD fellowship of the German Academic Exchange Service
bee and Rowe, 2008). Mitochondrial DNA typ- (DAAD; A/09/91179).
ically experiences less gene flow, but intro-
gresses more easily than nuclear DNA (Currat
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Appendix. Studied samples of the Testudo graeca complex.

Population Lab code Collection site N E K=3 K=4 mtDNA clade

1 AC558 Georgia: Bolnisi 41.44 44.53 yellow admixed n/a


2 AC073 Armenia: Tavush: Kokhb 40.90 45.39 yellow green C
2 AC519 Armenia: Tavush: Kokhb 40.90 45.39 admixed admixed n/a
2 AC520 Armenia: Tavush: Kokhb 40.90 45.39 blue blue n/a
3 R-3 Armenia: Noyemberyan 41.18 45.01 n/a n/a C
3 T1975 Armenia: Noyemberyan 41.18 45.01 n/a n/a C
3 AC038 Armenia: Noyemberyan 41.18 45.01 yellow green C
4 AC041 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 n/a n/a A
4 AC042 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 n/a n/a A
4 AC044 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 red red n/a
4 AC045 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 yellow admixed n/a
4 AC213 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 red red n/a
4 AC064 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 yellow admixed n/a
4 AC200 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 red red A
4 AC201 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 yellow green n/a
4 AC202 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 admixed blue A
4 AC203 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 yellow green C
4 AC204 Armenia: Armavir 40.15 43.84 yellow green C
5 AC074 Armenia: Garni 40.12 44.74 red red A
5 AC076 Armenia: Garni 40.12 44.74 red red n/a
5 AC075 Armenia: Garni 40.12 44.74 n/a n/a A
6 AC001 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 red red A
6 AC002 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 red red n/a
6 AC003 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 red red n/a
6 AC005 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 red red n/a
6 AC006 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 n/a n/a A
6 AC007 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 red red n/a
6 AC008 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 red red n/a
6 AC160 Armenia: Armavir: Vanand 40.11 43.82 red red n/a
7 AC039 Armenia: Gorovan 39.89 44.71 red red A
8 AC061 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 n/a n/a A
8 AC063 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 n/a n/a A
8 Ac065 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 n/a n/a A
8 AC066 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC067 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC068 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC069 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
350 V. Mashkaryan et al.

Appendix. (Continued.)

Population Lab code Collection site N E K=3 K=4 mtDNA clade

8 AC071 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a


8 AC072 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC142 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red admixed n/a
8 AC143 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red admixed n/a
8 AC146 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC147 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC149 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC151 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 admixed admixed n/a
8 AC153 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 blue blue n/a
8 AC156 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC157 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red n/a
8 AC158 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 admixed admixed n/a
8 AC205 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 red red A
8 AC206 Armenia: Ararat: Urtsadzor 39.91 44.81 n/a n/a A
9 T-2 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 n/a n/a A
9 AC009 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 admixed admixed n/a
9 AC010 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue admixed A
9 AC011 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue admixed n/a
9 AC012 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue n/a
9 AC013 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue yellow n/a
9 AC014 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 admixed admixed n/a
9 AC015 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue admixed n/a
9 AC017 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue admixed A
9 AC018 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue yellow n/a
9 AC019 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue A
9 AC034 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue admixed n/a
9 AC207 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue A
9 AC208 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue A
9 AC209 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue A
9 AC210 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue n/a
9 DB7821 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue A
9 AC211 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 admixed admixed A
9 AC212 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Tcobi 39.02 46.65 blue blue n/a
10 AC022 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 admixed yellow A
10 AC023 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 blue blue A
10 AC024 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 admixed admixed n/a
10 AC025 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 blue yellow n/a
10 AC026 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 blue blue n/a
10 AC029 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 blue admixed n/a
10 AC030 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 blue blue A
10 AC032 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 n/a n/a A
10 AC033 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 admixed yellow n/a
10 AC035 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 admixed yellow n/a
10 AC036 Nagorno Karabakh: Kashatagh: Lusavan 39.19 47.02 admixed admixed A
11 AC021 Nagorno Karabakh: Tigranavan 39.38 46.67 blue yellow A
12 DB4773 Nagorno Karabakh: Hadrut: Aknyakbur 39.51 47.02 n/a n/a A
12 DB7811 Nagorno Karabakh: Hadrut: Aknyakbur 39.51 47.02 yellow green A
13 AC037 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 admixed admixed A
13 AC154 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 blue blue n/a
13 AC155 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 admixed admixed n/a
13 DB12516 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 blue blue A
13 DB12394 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 yellow green A
13 5614 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 yellow green C
13 DB12069 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 yellow green n/a
13 DB12453 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 yellow green A
13 DB12518 Armenia: Nrnadzor 38.92 46.43 blue blue A
Gene flow in Testudo graeca 351

Appendix. (Continued.)

Population Lab code Collection site N E K=3 K=4 mtDNA clade

14 AC106 Iran: West Azerbaijan Province 37.27 44.59 blue blue n/a
14 AC107 Iran: West Azerbaijan Province 37.27 44.59 admixed yellow n/a
15 AC108 Iran: East Azerbaijan Province 37.54 46.16 n/a n/a E
15 AC109 Iran: East Azerbaijan Province 37.54 46.16 yellow yellow n/a
15 AC110 Iran: East Azerbaijan Province 37.54 46.16 admixed yellow n/a
15 AC111 Iran: East Azerbaijan Province 37.54 46.16 yellow admixed n/a
16 AC098 Iran: Maragheh 37.37 46.42 yellow admixed n/a
17 AC089 Iran: Varzeqan 38.50 46.65 yellow green n/a
17 AC090 Iran: Varzeqan 38.50 46.65 admixed yellow n/a
17 AC091 Iran: Varzeqan 38.50 46.65 yellow admixed n/a
18 AC097 Iran: Ahar 38.46 47.06 admixed yellow n/a
19 AC092 Iran: Miyaneh 37.43 47.70 yellow green n/a
19 AC093 Iran: Miyaneh 37.43 47.70 yellow green n/a
20 AC082 Iran: Angoran 36.44 47.28 yellow admixed n/a
21 AC094 Iran: Sohrein 36.51 48.24 yellow admixed n/a
21 AC095 Iran: Sohrein 36.51 48.24 yellow green n/a
22 AC085 Iran: Molalar 36.42 48.13 yellow green n/a
22 AC086 Iran: Molalar 36.42 48.13 yellow green n/a
22 AC087 Iran: Molalar 36.42 48.13 yellow green n/a
22 AC088 Iran: Molalar 36.42 48.13 yellow green n/a
23 AC096 Iran: between Buqda Kandi and Ahmad Kandi 36.34 48.16 yellow admixed n/a
24 AC077 Iran: Zanjan 36.70 48.29 yellow yellow n/a
24 AC078 Iran: Zanjan 36.70 48.29 admixed yellow E
24 AC079 Iran: Zanjan 36.70 48.29 yellow admixed E
24 AC081 Iran: Zanjan 36.70 48.29 admixed yellow n/a
25 AC083 Iran: Tarom 36.59 48.68 yellow green n/a
25 AC084 Iran: Tarom 36.60 49.68 yellow yellow n/a
26 AC099 Iran: Khoda Bande 35.40 51.25 yellow admixed n/a
T 2265* Iran: S Resht: between Saravan and Rostamabad 36.57 49.33 n/a n/a E
T 2267* Iran: S Resht: between Saravan and Rostamabad 36.57 49.33 n/a n/a E
T 2268* Iran: S Resht: between Saravan and Rostamabad 36.57 49.33 n/a n/a E
T 1999* Iran: Sefid Rud 37.22 48.08 n/a n/a E
T 1427* Iran: 6 km NE Meshgn Shahr 38.26 47.42 n/a n/a E
T 1428* Iran: 6 km NE Meshgn Shahr 38.26 47.42 n/a n/a E

Data from Fritz et al. (2007).