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Biogeography of Neurergus strauchii barani Öz, 1994 and N. s. strauchii (Steindachner, 1887) (Amphibia: Salamandridae) assessed using morphological and molecular data

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Five new locations of N. strauchii are reported from Turkey, closing the gap between the two subspecies N. s. barani and N. s. strauchii. A molecular analysis based on 829 base pairs from two mitochondrial ribosomal genes (12S and 16S rRNA), together with geographical data from the area concerned, indicate all new populations found are very closely related to the mitochondrial sequences from specimens of N. s. strauchii from its type locality and suggest the river Euphrates might have acted as a natural barrier separating the only populations of N. s. barani known to date from all other populations of N. s. strauchii. A morphological analysis of all N. strauchii populations sampled for this study indicates that belly patterns are not a good diagnostic character to differentiate between N. s. barani and N. s. strauchii, suggesting the only reliable morphological taxonomic character that allows their identification is the different number of yellow spots in adult specimens, which is significantly higher in N. s. strauchii. The analyses also indicate that the number of spots is similar between sub-adult and adult N. s. barani but significantly different between sub-adult and adult specimens of N. s. strauchii, suggesting there is also a difference between both subspecies in increase in the number of spots during maturation.

Listed by IUCN as vulnerable and protected by the Bern Convention (1979), our findings indicate N. s. strauchii is more widely distributed than previously thought, while N. s. barani would be restricted to just a few localities. Disturbance of its prime habitat, mountain brooks, and uncontrolled illegal collection, especially of N. s. barani, are still the main threats to the Anatolia newt throughout its known distribution range.


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