The phylogenetic relationships between western Palaearctic Zamenis and Rhinechis ratsnakes have been troubled, with recent estimates based on the supermatrix approach questioning their monophyly and providing contradictory results. In this study, we generated a comprehensive molecular data set for Zamenis and closely related ratsnakes to assess their phylogenetic and systematic relationships and infer their spatial and temporal modes of diversification. We obtained a fully resolved and well-supported phylogeny, which is consistent across markers, taxon-sets and phylogenetic methods. The close phylogenetic relationship between Rhinechis and Zamenis is well-established. However, the early branching pattern within this clade, and the position of R. scalaris and Z. hohenackeri, remains poorly supported. The Persian ratsnake Z. persicus is sister to the Mediterranean species Z. situla, Z. longissimus and Z. lineatus, of which Z. situla is sister to a clade containing the latter two species. These results are consistent with a recent phylogenomic study on ratsnakes based on hundreds of loci. Whereas, topological tests based on our data and evidence from such phylogenomic study strongly rejected previous phylogenetic estimates based on the supermatrix approach and demonstrate that these “mega-phylogenies”, with hundreds of taxa and high levels of missing data, have recovered inconsistent relationships with spurious nodal support. Biogeographical and molecular dating analyses suggest an origin of the ancestor of Rhinechis and Zamenis in the Aegean region with early cladogenesis during the Late Miocene associated with the Aegean arch formation and support a scenario of east-to-west diversification. Finally, while we have little morphological and phylogenetic evidence for the distinctiveness between Rhinechis and Zamenis, a classification of them in a single genus, and the designation of Zamenis scalaris (Schinz, 1822), reflects better their evolutionary relationships.

Evolution, biogeography and systematics of the western Palaearctic Zamenis ratsnakes

Salvi, Daniele
;
2018-01-01

Abstract

The phylogenetic relationships between western Palaearctic Zamenis and Rhinechis ratsnakes have been troubled, with recent estimates based on the supermatrix approach questioning their monophyly and providing contradictory results. In this study, we generated a comprehensive molecular data set for Zamenis and closely related ratsnakes to assess their phylogenetic and systematic relationships and infer their spatial and temporal modes of diversification. We obtained a fully resolved and well-supported phylogeny, which is consistent across markers, taxon-sets and phylogenetic methods. The close phylogenetic relationship between Rhinechis and Zamenis is well-established. However, the early branching pattern within this clade, and the position of R. scalaris and Z. hohenackeri, remains poorly supported. The Persian ratsnake Z. persicus is sister to the Mediterranean species Z. situla, Z. longissimus and Z. lineatus, of which Z. situla is sister to a clade containing the latter two species. These results are consistent with a recent phylogenomic study on ratsnakes based on hundreds of loci. Whereas, topological tests based on our data and evidence from such phylogenomic study strongly rejected previous phylogenetic estimates based on the supermatrix approach and demonstrate that these “mega-phylogenies”, with hundreds of taxa and high levels of missing data, have recovered inconsistent relationships with spurious nodal support. Biogeographical and molecular dating analyses suggest an origin of the ancestor of Rhinechis and Zamenis in the Aegean region with early cladogenesis during the Late Miocene associated with the Aegean arch formation and support a scenario of east-to-west diversification. Finally, while we have little morphological and phylogenetic evidence for the distinctiveness between Rhinechis and Zamenis, a classification of them in a single genus, and the designation of Zamenis scalaris (Schinz, 1822), reflects better their evolutionary relationships.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11697/132810
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