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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2000 May;15(2):269-82.

Historical biogeography of the Western Rattlesnake (Serpentes: viperidae: Crotalus viridis), inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequence information.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, Wales, United Kingdom.


We infer the phylogeography of the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) using phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences from 1345 bp of the genes for cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4. Two main clades are revealed: one includes populations from east and south of the Rocky Mountains (conventionally referred to as Crotalus viridis viridis and C. v. nuntius), and the other consists of populations west of the Rocky Mountains. Within the western clade, a population from southern Arizona (C. v. cerberus) represents the sister taxon to the remaining western populations. The conventional subspecies recognized in this species do not fully correspond to the phylogenetic pattern, and a review of the systematic status of several populations is needed. Our data allow the inferences that small body size evolved twice and that the ability of one population (C. v. concolor) to secrete highly lethal toxins related to Mojave toxin arose within the complex. Our phylogeny should represent the basis for further studies on the causes of geographical variation in this complex.

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