Abstract

We used microsatellites and mtDNA sequences to examine the mixed effects of geophysical, habitat, and contemporary urban barriers on the genetics of threatened Alameda Striped Racers (Coluber lateralis euryxanthus), a species with close ties to declining coastal scrub and chaparral habitat in the eastern San Francisco Bay area of California. We used cluster assignments to characterize population genetic structuring with respect to land management units and approximate Bayesian analysis to rank the ability of five alternative evolutionary hypotheses to explain the inferred structure. Then, we estimated rates of contemporary and historical migration among the major clusters and measured the fit of different historical migration models to better understand the formation of the current population structure. Our results reveal a ring-like pattern of historical connectivity around the Tri-Valley area of the East Bay (i.e., San Ramon, Amador, and Livermore valleys), with clusters largely corresponding to different management units. We found no evidence of continuous gene flow throughout the ring, however, and that the main gap in continuity is centered across the Livermore Valley. Historical migration models support higher rates of gene flow away from the terminal ends of the ring on the north and south sides of the Valley, compared with rates into those areas from western sites that border the interior San Francisco Bay. We attribute the break in ring-like connectivity to the presence of unsuitable habitat within the Livermore Valley that has been reinforced by 20th century urbanization, and the asymmetry in gene flow rates to spatial constraints on movement and east–west environmental gradients influenced by the proximity of the San Francisco Bay.

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