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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Jul;60(1):183-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.03.026. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

A phylogenetic hypothesis for Crocodylus (Crocodylia) based on mitochondrial DNA: evidence for a trans-Atlantic voyage from Africa to the New World.

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Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.


The phylogenetic relationships among extant species of Crocodylus (Crocodylia) have been inconsistently resolved by previous systematic studies. Here we used nearly complete mitochondrial (mt) genomes (∼16,200 base pairs) for all described Crocodylus species, eight of which are new to this study, to derive a generally well-supported phylogenetic hypothesis for the genus. Model-based analyses support monophyly of all Asian+Australian species and paraphyly of Crocodylus niloticus (Nile crocodile) with a monophyletic New World clade nested within this species. Wild-caught Nile crocodiles from eastern populations group robustly with the four New World species to the exclusion of Nile crocodiles from western populations, a result that is also favored by parsimony analyses and by various subpartitions of the overall mt dataset. The fossil record of Crocodylus extends back only to the Late Miocene, while the earliest fossils assigned to C. niloticus and to New World Crocodylus are Pliocene. Therefore, in combination with paleontological evidence, mt DNA trees imply a relatively recent migration of Crocodylus from Africa to the Americas, a voyage that would have covered hundreds of miles at sea.

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