Molecular phylogeny and phylogeography of the Australian Diplodactylus stenodactylus (Gekkota; Reptilia) species-group based on mitochondrial and nuclear genes reveals an ancient split between Pilbara and non-Pilbara D. stenodactylus




Pepper, Mitzy
Doughty, Paul
Keogh, J Scott

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Academic Press


There is a paucity of research on intra-specific morphological and genetic diversity in Australian arid-zone reptiles, and a number of Australian reptile species have for many years been regarded as "species complexes" that classical morphological analyses could not resolve. We conducted a phylogenetic and phylogeographic study of a widespread species group of Australian geckonid lizards to address two main aims. First, based on a large mitochondrial and nuclear gene data set, we have generated the first molecular phylogeny for the Diplodactylus stenodactylus species group (D. alboguttatus, D. damaeus, D. maini, and D. squarrosus, D. stenodactylus) and multiple outgroups to examine the evolutionary relationships among these arid-zone species and phylogenetic patterns within some species. The edited alignment of 41 individuals comprises 2485 characters (1163 ND2 + tRNAs; 490 16s; 832 RAG-1), and of these 717 (29%) were variable and parsimony informative (568 ND2 + tRNAs; 89 16s; 60 RAG-1). This broad-scale, multi-gene phylogeny has supported previous conjectures on the higher-level phylogenetic relationships among members of the D. stenodactylus species-group based on morphology, but also has uncovered hidden diversity within the group with two new species identified. Analysis at this broad level has identified patterns associated with the distribution of the D. stenodactylus species group that appear to be influenced by environmental processes operating at large geographic scales. Two major clades within the species group were associated with broad differences in habitat types, with one group largely restricted to the temperate zone of the Southwest Province and another largely restricted to central and northern Western Australia north of Kalgoorlie, in line with the Eremaean Province of the Eremaean Zone and the Northern Province of the Tropical Zone. Second, we have assembled phylogeographic data based on a mitochondrial gene (ND2 + tRNAs) for five species (Rhynchoedura ornata, Diplodactylus maini, D. pulcher, D. squarrosus, D. stenodactylus) where larger sampling is available, with particular focus on D. stenodactylus, which is distributed both in the iconic but little-known Pilbara area of endemism in north-western Australia as well as in other parts of the Australian arid zone. The edited alignment of 95 individuals comprises 1142 characters and of these 601 (53%) are variable and parsimony informative. We found significant intra-specific genetic variation in all five species, highlighting the need for large-scale screening of cryptic species, with sampling specifically targeted at determining the geographic limits of such taxa. In particular, within D. stenodactylus, a deep and ancient phylogenetic split distinguishes populations in the Pilbara region from non-Pilbara populations. This split may be the result of broad differences in underlying geological substrate, with the Pilbara clade generally preferring harder soils and the non-Pilbara clade adapted to sand.



Keywords: primer DNA; reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase; RNA 16S; transfer RNA; animal; animal disease; article; Australia; chemistry; classification; DNA sequence; gene; genetics; geography; lizard; phylogeny; polymerase chain reaction; seque 16s; Australian arid zone; Biogeography; Diplodactylus stenodactylus; Gekkonidae; Gekkota; ND2; Phylogeography; Pilbara; RAG-1; Reptile



Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution


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