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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2015 Dec;93:188-211. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2015.07.016. Epub 2015 Jul 30.

Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of the Neotropical skink genus Mabuya Fitzinger (Squamata: Scincidae) with emphasis on Colombian populations.

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Departament of Biological Sciences, Universidad de los Andes, A.A. 4976 Bogotá, Colombia. Electronic address:
Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia. Electronic address:
Centre d'Ecologie fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRS, Montpellier, France. Electronic address:
Departament of Biological Sciences, Universidad de los Andes, A.A. 4976 Bogotá, Colombia; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 0843-03092, Panama City, Republic of Panama; Círculo Herpetológico de Panamá, Apartado 0824-00122, Panama City, Republic of Panama. Electronic address:
Escuela de Biología, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia. Electronic address:


Understanding the phylogenetic and geographical history of Neotropical lineages requires having adequate geographic and taxonomic sampling across the region. However, Colombia has remained a geographical gap in many studies of Neotropical diversity. Here we present a study of Neotropical skinks of the genus Mabuya, reptiles that are difficult to identify or delimit due to their conservative morphology. The goal of the present study is to propose phylogenetic and biogeographic hypotheses of Mabuya including samples from the previously under-studied territory of Colombia, and address relevant biogeographic and taxonomic issues. We combined molecular and morphological data sampled densely by us within Colombia with published data representing broad sampling across the Neotropical realm, including DNA sequence data from two mitochondrial (12S rRNA and cytochrome b) and three nuclear genes (Rag2, NGFB and R35). To evaluate species boundaries we employed a general mixed Yule-coalescent (GMYC) model applied to the mitochondrial data set. Our results suggest that the diversity of Mabuya within Colombia is higher than previously recognized, and includes lineages from Central America and from eastern and southern South America. The genus appears to have originated in eastern South America in the Early Miocene, with subsequent expansions into Central America and the Caribbean in the Late Miocene, including at least six oceanic dispersal events to Caribbean Islands. We identified at least four new candidate species for Colombia and two species that were not previously reported in Colombia. The populations of northeastern Colombia can be assigned to M. zuliae, while specimens from Orinoquia and the eastern foothills of the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia correspond to M. altamazonica. The validity of seven species of Mabuya sensu lato was not supported due to a combination of three factors: (1) non-monophyly, (2) <75% likelihood bootstrap support and <0.95 Bayesian posterior probability, and (3) GMYC analysis collapsing named species. Finally, we suggest that Mabuya sensu stricto may be regarded as a diverse monophyletic genus, widely distributed throughout the Neotropics.


Ancestral area reconstruction; Colombia; Mabuya; Molecular phylogenetics; Oceanic dispersal; Species delimitation

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