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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2012 Mar;62(3):826-38. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.11.023. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

Molecular phylogeny and morphometric analyses reveal deep divergence between Amazonia and Atlantic Forest species of Dendrophryniscus.

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Universidade de São Paulo, Instituto de Biociências, Departamento de Zoologia, Caixa Postal 11.461, CEP 05508-090, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


Dendrophryniscus is an early diverging clade of bufonids represented by few small-bodied species distributed in Amazonia and the Atlantic Forest. We used mitochondrial (414 bp of 12S, 575 bp of 16S genes) and nuclear DNA (785 bp of RAG-1) to investigate phylogenetic relationships and the timing of diversification within the genus. These molecular data were gathered from 23 specimens from 19 populations, including eight out of the 10 nominal species of the genus as well as Rhinella boulengeri. Analyses also included sequences of representatives of 18 other bufonid genera that were publically available. We also examined morphological characters to analyze differences within Dendrophryniscus. We found deep genetic divergence between an Amazonian and an Atlantic Forest clade, dating back to Eocene. Morphological data corroborate this distinction. We thus propose to assign the Amazonian species to a new genus, Amazonella. The species currently named R. boulengeri, which has been previously assigned to the genus Rhamphophryne, is shown to be closely related to Dendrophryniscus species. Our findings illustrate cryptic trends in bufonid morphological evolution, and point to a deep history of persistence and diversification within the Amazonian and Atlantic rainforests. We discuss our results in light of available paleoecological data and the biogeographic patterns observed in other similarly distributed groups.

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