The phylogeny of the family Lacertidae (Reptilia) based on nuclear DNA sequences: convergent adaptations to arid habitats within the subfamily Eremiainae

Werner Mayer, Mihaela Pavlicev

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    The family Lacertidae encompasses more than 250 species distributed in the Palearctis, Ethiopis and Orientalis. Lacertids have been subjected in the past to several morphological and molecular studies to establish their phylogeny. However, the problems of convergent adaptation in morphology and of excessively variable molecular markers have hampered the establishment of well supported deeper phylogenetic relationships. Particularly the adaptations to xeric environments have often been used to establish a scenario for the origin and radiation of major lineages within lacertids. Here we present a molecular phylogenetic study based on two nuclear marker genes and representatives of 37 lacertid genera and distinct species groups (as in the case of the collective genus Lacerta). Roughly 1600 bp of the nuclear rag1 and c-mos genes were sequenced and analyzed. While the results provide good support to the hitherto suggested main subfamilies of Gallotiinae (Gallotia and Psammodromus), Eremiainae and Lacertinae [Harris, D.J., Arnold, E.N., Thomas, R.H., 1998. Relationships of lacertid lizards (Reptilia: Lacertidae) estimated from mitochondrial DNA sequences and morphology. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 265, 1939-1948], they also suggest unexpected relationships. In particular, the oriental genus Takydromus, previously considered the sister-group to the three subfamilies, is nested within Lacertinae. Moreover, the genera within the Eremiainae are further divided into two groups, roughly corresponding to their respective geographical distributions in the Ethiopian and the Saharo-Eurasian ranges. The results support an independent origin of adaptations to xeric conditions in different subfamilies. The relationships within the subfamily Lacertinae could not be resolved with the markers used. The species groups of the collective genus Lacerta show a bush-like topology in the inferred Bayesian tree, suggesting rapid radiation. The composition of the subfamilies Eremiainae and Lacertinae as well as their phylogeography are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1155-63
    Number of pages9
    JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007

    Austrian Fields of Science 2012

    • 106012 Evolutionary research


    • Acclimatization/genetics
    • Animals
    • Base Sequence
    • DNA/genetics
    • DNA Primers/genetics
    • Ecosystem
    • Evolution, Molecular
    • Genes, RAG-1
    • Genes, mos
    • Lizards/classification
    • Models, Genetic
    • Molecular Sequence Data
    • Phylogeny

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