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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 Jun;43(3):1151-66. Epub 2007 Feb 16.

Molecular phylogeny of the scincid lizards of New Caledonia and adjacent areas: evidence for a single origin of the endemic skinks of Tasmantis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Villanova University, Villanova, PA 19085, USA.


We use approximately 1900bp of mitochondrial (ND2) and nuclear (c-mos and Rag-1) DNA sequence data to recover phylogenetic relationships among 58 species and 26 genera of Eugongylus group scincid lizards from New Caledonia, Lord Howe Island, New Zealand, Australia and New Guinea. Taxon sampling for New Caledonian forms was nearly complete. We find that the endemic skink genera occurring on New Caledonia, New Zealand and Lord Howe Island, which make up the Gondwanan continental block Tasmantis, form a monophyletic group. Within this group New Zealand and New Zealand+Lord Howe Island form monophyletic clades. These clades are nested within the radiation of skinks in New Caledonia. All of the New Caledonian genera are monophyletic, except Lioscincus. The Australian and New Guinean species form a largely unresolved polytomy with the Tasmantis clade. New Caledonian representatives of the more widespread genera Emoia and Cryptoblepharus are more closely related to the non-Tasmantis taxa than to the endemic New Caledonian genera. Using ND2 sequences and the calibration estimated for the agamid Laudakia, we estimate that the diversification of the Tasmantis lineage began at least 12.7 million years ago. However, using combined ND2 and c-mos data and the calibration estimated for pygopod lizards suggests the lineage is 35.4-40.74 million years old. Our results support the hypothesis that skinks colonized Tasmantis by over-water dispersal initially to New Caledonia, then to Lord Howe Island, and finally to New Zealand.

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