Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-15-2017


Aneides hardii (Sacramento Mountain salamander) is restricted to high-elevation habitat that is fragmented by low-elevation piñon-juniper woodland. Aneides hardii is a species of conservation concern in New Mexico, in part, because disease and climate change endanger its long-term persistence. In this study, we use sequence data from the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene and a microsatellite locus of A. hardii to addresses the timing and scale of population subdivision. We also calculated genetic diversity measures and compared them among mountain ranges to explore demographic history of A. hardii. Twenty-six haplotypes and three genetically distinct lineages were identified, and each haplotype was restricted to a single mountain range (Capitan, White, or Sacramento Mountains). Mitochondrial data indicated divergence between disjunct A. hardii populations consistent with early Pleistocene climatic changes, characterized by glacial and interglacial cycles, that isolated salamanders to ‘sky island’ habitats and distinct lineages. Cooler, wetter periods of the Pleistocene would have been a time of possible range expansion for A. hardii because of increased available habitat in lower elevations. Fine scale structure was detected in A. hardii lineages and could be indicative of a small home range. Mitochondrial and microsatellite data showed differences in the magnitude of fine scale patterns that could be an indication of sex based dispersal. Our results genetic diversity statistics varied among mountain-tops, and therefore, we propose Environmentally Significant Units (ESUs) to manage this species. ESUs prioritize species management of historic lineages because they are evolutionarily significant, e.g. White and east Capitan Mountains populations. Furthermore, we developed environmental DNA (eDNA) methodology to indicate the presence/absence of A. hardii. Our true positive detection rate was 25%, and we found an eDNA persistence time of at least one week. Our eDNA methodology could be utilized in other terrestrial Plethodontidae, especially endangered species (e.g. Plethodon neomexicanus). Our genetic approaches aim to assist in the conservation management of the A. hardii based on genetic methodology and quantitative data analysis.




Aneides, New Mexico, salamander, conservation

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Thomas Turner

Second Committee Member

Megan Osborne

Third Committee Member

Robert Parmenter

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