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Discovery of the first Asian plethodontid salamander


Nearly 70% of the 535 species of salamanders in the world are members of a single family, the Plethodontidae, or lungless salamanders1. The centre of diversity for this clade is North and Middle America, where the vast majority (99%) of species are found. We report the discovery of the first Asian plethodontid salamander, from montane woodlands in southwestern Korea. The new species superficially resembles members of North American genera, in particular the morphologically conservative genus Plethodon. However, phylogenetic analysis of the nuclear encoded gene Rag-1 shows the new taxon to be widely divergent from Plethodon. The new salamander differs osteologically from putative relatives, especially with respect to the tongue (attached protrusible) and the derived tarsus2,3,4,5,6. We place the species in a new genus on the basis of the morphological and molecular data. The distribution of the new salamander adds to the enigma of Old World plethodontids, which are otherwise restricted to the western Mediterranean region7,8, suggesting a more extensive past distribution of the family.

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Figure 1
Figure 2: Right foot of three species of plethodontid salamanders.
Figure 3: Bayesian phylogram based on 1,503 base pairs of Rag-1, showing strong support for the placement of Karsenia relative to other salamanders.


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We thank S. Karsen for bringing these salamanders to our attention. R. Diaz, K. Klitz and W. Korff assisted with illustrations. Radiographs were obtained with the assistance of B. M. Burr and M. R. Thomas. J. Lazell, R. Mueller, D. Rasmussen, E. Rosenblum, M. Stöck, V. Vredenburg and M. Wake offered assistance and information. Research was supported by a NSF AmphibiaTree grant.

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Correspondence to D. B. Wake.

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Supplementary Methods

This file contains details on DNA sequencing, phylogenetic methods and specimens used for molecular analyses. It also contains additional references. (DOC 63 kb)

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Min, M., Yang, S., Bonett, R. et al. Discovery of the first Asian plethodontid salamander. Nature 435, 87–90 (2005).

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