Age structure and growth in the Moroccan spadefoot toad, Pelobates varaldii were estimated by skeletochronology and reported for the first time for a population living in NW Morocco. Snout vent length and body mass did not significantly differ between the sexes, although females appeared larger and heavier than males. Age ranged 2-7 years in males (mean age±SD: 4.5±1.2, n = 66) and 2-10 years in females (4.7±2.4, n = 20). The difference in age was not significant between the sexes. The modal age was 5 years for males and 3 years for females. The age distributions significantly differed between the sexes. Von Bertalanffy growth curves showed a similar profile between the sexes although growth coefficient was higher in males than in females. Longevity and growth rates of P. varaldii were compared with those of other species of the genus Pelobates.
The genetic variability and the potential distribution under past (Last Glacial Maximum; LGM (MIROC and CCSM simulations)) and present conditions were studied for the anguid Hyalosaurus koellikeri, using analyses of two mitochondrial (ND1 and ND2) and one nuclear (PRLR) gene and species distribution modelling (SDM) including 19 geographical coordinates, covering most of its distribution range. Unexpectedly, the genetic results show that H. koellikeri presents a very low level of variability both in the mitochondrial and nuclear genes studied. The present predicted distribution of H. koellikeri revealed a large potential distribution in both north and eastwards directions, with suitable areas predicted in places where the species has never been reported before, as for instance the Rif Mountains in Morocco, as well as into most parts of northern Algeria and Tunisia. The LGM distribution is even larger compared to the present, with a continuous predicted distribution from Morocco to Tunisia, and even into Libya under the MIROC simulation. The results of the genetic and SDM analyses suggest that the now isolated populations from Debdou and Tlemcen have probably been in contact during the LGM, but its absence from both present and past predicted suitable areas is still a mystery. Hyalosaurus koellikeri depends mainly on closed deciduous forests (typically Cedrus atlantica and Quercus sp.) and open deciduous shrubland with high amounts of annual rainfall. The results of this study and the absence of recent sightings of the species outside the core distribution might indicate a regression of the species. Hence, a reevaluation of the conservation status of the species seems warranted.
Painted frogs (Discoglossus) contain five to six species of Western Palearctic anurans that are mainly distributed in allopatry. We here provide the first comprehensive assessment of the phylogeography of the Moroccan species D. scovazzi and geographically characterize its contact zone with D. pictus in Eastern Morocco. Discoglossus scovazzi shows, in general, a weak phylogeographic structure across Morocco on the basis of mitochondrial DNA sequences of the cytochrome b gene, with only populations centered in the Atlas Mountains characterized by the presence of slightly divergent haplotypes. In eastern Morocco, all populations east of the Moulouya River were clearly assignable to D. pictus. This species was also found along the Mediterranean coast west of the Moulouya, in the cities of Nador and Melilla, suggesting that not the river itself but the wide arid valley extending along much of the river (except close to the estuary) acts as a possible distributional barrier to these frogs. No sympatry of D. scovazzi with D. pictus was observed, and all specimens were concordantly assigned to either species by DNA sequences of cytochrome b and of the nuclear marker RAG1. Species distribution models of the two taxa show largely overlapping areas of suitable habitat, and the two species’ niches are significantly more similar than would be expected given the underlying environmental differences between the regions in which they occur. Comparative data are also presented from the southern Iberian contact zone of D. galganoi galganoi and D. g. jeanneae. These taxa showed less clear-cut distributional borders, extensively shared RAG1 haplotypes, and had instances of sympatric occurrence on the basis of cytochrome b haplotypes, in agreement with the hypothesis of a yet incomplete speciation. In this wide contact zone area we found mitochondrial sequences containing double peaks in electropherograms, suggesting nuclear pseudogenes or (less likely) heteroplasmy, possibly related to the ongoing admixture among the lineages.
A precise knowledge of the spatial distribution of taxa is essential for decision-making processes in land management and biodiversity conservation, both for present and under future global change scenarios. This is a key base for several scientific disciplines (e.g. macro-ecology, biogeography, evolutionary biology, spatial planning, or environmental impact assessment) that rely on species distribution maps. An atlas summarizing the distribution of European amphibians and reptiles with 50 × 50 km resolution maps based on ca. 85 000 grid records was published by the Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH) in 1997. Since then, more detailed species distribution maps covering large parts of Europe became available, while taxonomic progress has led to a plethora of taxonomic changes including new species descriptions. To account for these progresses, we compiled information from different data sources: published in books and websites, ongoing national atlases, personal data kindly provided to the SEH, the 1997 European Atlas, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Databases were homogenised, deleting all information except species names and coordinates, projected to the same coordinate system (WGS84) and transformed into a 50 × 50 km grid. The newly compiled database comprises more than 384 000 grid and locality records distributed across 40 countries. We calculated species richness maps as well as maps of Corrected Weighted Endemism and defined species distribution types (i.e. groups of species with similar distribution patterns) by hierarchical cluster analysis using Jaccard’s index as association measure. Our analysis serves as a preliminary step towards an interactive, dynamic and online distributed database system (NA2RE system) of the current spatial distribution of European amphibians and reptiles. The NA2RE system will serve as well to monitor potential temporal changes in their distributions. Grid maps of all species are made available along with this paper as a tool for decision-making and conservation-related studies and actions. We also identify taxonomic and geographic gaps of knowledge that need to be filled, and we highlight the need to add temporal and altitudinal data for all records, to allow tracking potential species distribution changes as well as detailed modelling of the impacts of land use and climate change on European amphibians and reptiles.