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Gene. 2007 Feb 15;388(1-2):19-26. Epub 2006 Oct 10.

Mitochondrial genomes from major lizard families suggest their phylogenetic relationships and ancient radiations.

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Division of Material Science, Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan.


In placental mammals and birds, molecular data generally support a view that they diverged into their ordinal groups in good response to mid-Cretaceous continental fragmentations. However, such divergence patterns have rarely been studied for reptiles for which phylogenetic relationships among their major groups have not yet been established molecularly. Here, I determined complete or nearly complete mitochondrial DNA sequences from seven lizard families and reconstructed phylogenetic relationships between major lizard families. When snakes were included, maximum likelihood analysis did not support a morphological view of the snakes-varanoids affinity, although several other competing hypotheses on the position of snakes still cannot be discriminated presumably due to extremely long branches of the snake lineages. I also conducted clock-free Bayesian analyses to show that divergence times between major lizard families were centered in Triassic-Jurassic times. Thus, lizards include much deeper divergences than the mammals and birds and they appear to have already radiated into various families prior to the mid-Cretaceous major continental fragmentation.

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