Several hypotheses are available to predict change in genetic diversity when approaching peripheral populations. We used the eastern spadefoot toad in Israel as a model system to examine these hypotheses using population genetics analyses and network theory. Our results contradicted most of the predictions from the 'abundant centre' model, that edge populations should have lower density and lower genetic diversity than core populations. Furthermore, dispersal rate between core and peripheral populations is expected to be asymmetric, mostly directed outwards from the core population, but we did not detect such a trend. Our data did not support the hypothesis of no change or a non-linear change in genetic diversity towards the range edge. However, our results did fit the Fisher (The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1930) hypothesis, which predicts increase in genetic variability from core to edge of distribution. We attributed this finding to the much harsher climatic and abiotic conditions at the edge, which must be tolerated over generations by both tadpoles and post-metamorphic individuals in this region. Finally, our results have significant conservation implications for the survival of this species in Israel, where it is critically endangered. We identified two distinct communities, which are genetically linked through two specific rain pools in the Upper Galilee. Details on the spatial subdivision of this species are cardinal for future management and restoration of temporary wetlands in Israel.
- network theory