The Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah), known from isolated talus slopes on three of the highest mountains in Shenandoah National Park, is listed as state-endangered in Virginia and federally endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A 1999 paper by G. R. Thurow described P. shenandoah-like salamanders from three localities further south in the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province, which, if confirmed, would represent a range extension for P. shenandoah of approximately 90 km from its nearest known locality. Samples collected from two of these three localities were included in a molecular phylogenetic study of the known populations of P. shenandoah, and all other recognized species in the Plethodon cinereus group, using a 792 bp region of the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene. Phylogenetic estimates were based on Bayesian, maximum likelihood, and maximum parsimony methods and topologies examined for placement of the new P. shenandoah-like samples relative to all others. All topologies recovered all haplotypes of the P. shenandoah-like animals nested within P. cinereus, and a statistical comparison of the best likelihood tree topology with one with an enforced (Thurow + Shenandoah P. shenandoah) clade revealed that the unconstrained tree had a significantly lower -In L score (P < 0.05, using the Shimodaira-Hasegawa test) than the constraint tree. This result and other anecdotal information give us no solid reason to consider the Thurow report valid. The current recovery program for P. shenandoah should remain focused on populations in Shenandoah National Park.
Additional publication details
Phylogenetic relationships of the endangered Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) and other salamanders of the Plethodon cinereus group (Caudata : Plethodontidae)