Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. David W. Weisrock

Abstract

Genomes provide windows into the evolutionary histories of species. The recent accessibility of genome-scale data in non-model organisms and the proliferation of powerful statistical models are now providing unprecedented opportunities to uncover evolutionary relationships and to test hypotheses about the processes that generate and maintain biodiversity. This dissertation work reveals shallow-scale species boundaries and population genetic structure in two imperiled groups of salamanders and demonstrates that the number and information content of genomic regions used in species delimitation exert strong effects on the resulting inferences. Genome scans are employed to test hypotheses about the mechanisms of genetic sex determination in cryptobranchid salamanders, suggesting a conserved system of female heterogamety in this group. At much deeper scales, phylogenetic analyses of hundreds of protein-coding genes across all major amphibian lineages are employed to reveal the backbone topology and evolutionary timescales of the amphibian tree of life, suggesting a new set of hypotheses for relationships among extant amphibians. Yet, genomic data on their own are no panacea for the thorniest questions in evolutionary biology, and this work also demonstrates the power of a model testing framework to dissect support for different phylogenetic and population genetic hypotheses across different regions of the genome.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.284

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