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Molecular systematics of the shieldtail snakes (Uropeltidae) of South Asia

AuthorsGower, David; Papadopoulou, Anna
Issue DateFeb-2013
Citation2nd BioSyst.EU (2013)
AbstractUropeltidae Müller, 1832 comprises 48 nominal species (8 genera) restricted to Sri Lanka and peninsu- lar India. These “shieldtails” are generally small, montane snakes that burrow in soil. Superficially at least, uropeltid systematics appears stable, with very little taxonomic action having taken place in the last 50 years, but there is a suspicion that this reflects lack of study rather than a robust understanding of diversity. The vast majority of taxonomic actions within Uropeltidae occurred in the 1800s and lack of attention since has left a somewhat fragile foundation with many probably valid species hidden in synonymy. Species delimitation and generic monophyly is not adequately determined because of little study, few systematic characters (for which variation is not well understood), and a confusing litera- ture. We inferred the phylogenetic relationships of 63 uropeltid specimens representing approximately 20 species (5 genera) using mitochondrial (mt) and nuclear (nu) markers. The results support those from previous analyses of albumin immunological and allozyme data and preliminary DNA sequence analyses in recovering Sri Lankan uropeltids as monophyletic and Indian uropeltids as paraphyletic. Within the Sri Lankan clade Rhinophis is paraphyletic with respect to Uropeltis and Pseudotyphlops such that Sri Lankan species of the latter two genera should be transferred to Rhinophis to make the classification nat - ural. The inferred topology is consistent with a single origin of Sri Lankan uropeltids from southernmost Indian lowland forms. Nominal Sri Lankan species, including recently described taxa, are strongly sup- ported as monophyletic, lending support to most of the current taxonomy of the uropeltids of this island, including the perceived lack of variability in colour pattern and generally narrow geographic ranges of especially the montane forms. Some possibly undescribed, cryptic Sri Lankan species are indicated. The taxonomy of Indian Uropeltis is much less well founded.
DescriptionTrabajo presentado en el 2nd BioSyst.EU (BioSyst.EU 2013 Global systematics!), celebrado en Viena del 18 al 22 de febrero de 2013.
Appears in Collections:(IBE) Comunicaciones congresos
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