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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Sep;48(3):1168-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2008.05.008. Epub 2008 May 14.

Phylogeography of two New Zealand lizards: McCann's skink (Oligosoma maccanni) and the brown skink (O. zelandicum).

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Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.


The New Zealand skink fauna has proven to be an ideal taxonomic group in which to examine the impact of climatic and geological processes on the evolution of the New Zealand biota since the Pliocene. Here we examine the phylogeography of McCann's skink (Oligosoma maccanni) in order to gain insight into the relative contribution of Pliocene and Pleistocene processes on patterns of genetic structure in the South Island biota, and investigate the phylogeography of the brown skink (O. zelandicum) to examine whether Cook Strait landbridges facilitated geneflow between the North and South Islands in the late-Pleistocene. We obtained mitochondrial DNA sequence data (ND2 and ND4; 1282bp) from across the range of both species. We examined the phylogeographic patterns evident in each species using Neighbour-Joining, Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian methods. We found substantial phylogeographic structure within O. maccanni, with seven distinct clades identified. Divergences among clades are estimated to have occurred during the Pliocene. Populations in the Otago/Southland region (south of the Waitaki River valley) formed a well-supported lineage within O. maccanni. A substantial genetic break was evident between populations in east and west Otago, either side of the Nevis-Cardrona fault system, while north-south genetic breaks were evident within the Canterbury region. Within-clade divergences in O. maccanni appear to have occurred during the mid- to late-Pleistocene. Shimodaira-Hasegawa topology tests indicated that the 'Garston' skink is not genetically distinct from O. maccanni. There was only relatively minor phylogeographic structure within O. zelandicum, with divergences among populations occurring during the mid- to late-Pleistocene. Our genetic data supports a single colonisation of the North Island by O. zelandicum from the South Island, with the estimated timing of this event (0.46mya) consistent with the initial formation of Cook Strait.

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