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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2002 Jun;23(3):401-7.

Phylogenetic relationships of Indian caecilians (Amphibia: Gymnophiona) inferred from mitochondrial rRNA gene sequences.

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Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK.


India has a diverse caecilian fauna, including representatives of three of the six currently recognized families, the Caeciliidae, Ichthyophiidae, the endemic Uraeotyphlidae, but previous molecular phylogenetic studies of caecilians have not included sequences for any Indian caecilians. Partial 12S and 16S mitochondrial gene sequences were obtained for a single representative of each of the caecilian families found in India and aligned against previously reported sequences for 13 caecilian species. The resulting alignment (16 taxa, 1200 sites, of which 288 cannot be aligned unambiguously) was analyzed using parsimony, maximum-likelihood, and distance methods. As judged by bootstrap proportions, decay indices, and leaf stabilities, well-supported relationships of the Indian caecilians are recovered from the alignment. The data (1) corroborate the hypothesis, based on morphology, that the Uraeotyphlidae and Ichthyophiidae are sister taxa, (2) recover a monophyletic Ichthyophiidae, including Indian and South East Asian representatives, and (3) place the Indian caeciliid Gegeneophis ramaswamii as the sister group of the caeciliid caecilians of the Seychelles. Rough estimates of divergence times suggest an origin of the Uraeotyphlidae and Ichthyophiidae while India was isolated from Laurasia and Africa and are most consistent with an Indian origin of these families and subsequent dispersal of ichthyophiids into South East Asia.

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