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Hidden relationships and genetic diversity: Molecular phylogeny and phylogeography of the Levantine lizards of the genus Phoenicolacerta (Squamata: Lacertidae)

AuthorsTamar, Karin; Carranza, Salvador CSIC ORCID ; Bosch, Herman in den; Sindaco, Roberto; Moravec, Jiří; Meiri, Shai
KeywordsMultilocus phylogeny
Haplotype network
Molecular clock
Issue DateOct-2015
CitationMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 91: 86-97 (2015)
AbstractThe Levant region witnessed dramatic tectonic events and climatic fluctuations that changed the historical landscape of the area and consequently influenced the cladogenesis and distribution of the local biota. In this study we use information from two mitochondrial and two nuclear genes and species delimitation methods in order to obtain the first robust time-calibrated molecular phylogeny of the Levantine rock lizards of the genus Phoenicolacerta. We sampled from across its distributional range with the aim to clarify its systematics, biogeography and evolution. Our results suggest that the genus includes two well-supported clades, one comprising solely the montane species Phoenicolacerta kulzeri, and the other including the three remaining species, the relatively widespread, P. laevis, the Syrian-Turkish P. cyanisparsa and the Cypriot endemic P. troodica. We found that both P. laevis and P. cyanisparsa are not monophyletic, as the Turkish populations of P. laevis branch within P. cyanisparsa. We found high levels of undescribed diversity within P. laevis which necessitate a thorough revision. We suggest that Phoenicolacerta started radiating during the mid-late Miocene, and that both vicariance and dispersal events shaped the diversification and distribution of the genus concomitantly with the formation of major geological structures and climatic fluctuations in the Levant. These results highlight the region as an important center of speciation, contributing to the species diversity of the eastern Mediterranean.
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