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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2012 Mar;62(3):856-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.11.035. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Neogene climatic oscillations shape the biogeography and evolutionary history of the Eurasian blindsnake.

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  • 1Section of Animal Biology, Department of Biology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Patras, GR-26500 Patras, Greece. korniliospan@yahoo.gr

Abstract

Typhlops vermicularis is the only extant scolecophidian representative occurring in Europe. Its main distribution area, the eastern Mediterranean, has a complicated geological and climatic history that has left an imprint on the phylogenies and biogeography of many taxa, especially amphibians and reptiles. Since reptiles are sensitive indicators of palaeogeographical and palaeoclimatic events, we investigated the intraspecific genealogy of T. vermicularis in a phylogeographical framework. A total of 130 specimens were analyzed, while the use of formalin and ethanol as preservatives called for a special treatment of the samples. Partial sequences of two mitochondrial (12S and ND2) and one nuclear (PRLR) marker were targeted and the results of the phylogenetic analyses (NJ, ML and BI) and the parsimony-network revealed the existence of 10 evolutionary significant units within this species. In combination with the results of the dispersal-vicariance analysis, we may conclude that the Eurasian blindsnake has encountered a sequence of extinction events, followed by secondary expansion from refugia. Estimation of divergence times showed that severe climatic changes between significantly wetter and drier conditions in the Late Neogene have played a key role on the evolutionary and biogeographical history of T. vermicularis. Additionally, both markers (mtDNA and nDNA) distinguished a largely-differentiated evolutionary lineage (Jordan and south Syria), which could even be reckoned as a full species. Our study reveals the existence of cryptic evolutionary lineages within T. vermicularis, which calls for further attention both on the protection of intraspecific varieties and the respective geographic areas that hold them.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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