Is the horned pitviper Ceratrimeresurus shenlii Liang and Liu, 2003 from China a valid Protobothrops?

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Abstract

Previous records of horned pitvipers from Vietnam and China are reviewed and the phylogenetic placement of four snakes from two sites in Tianjingshan Forest, China (Ruyan County, Guangdong Province; 24°43′N, 113°03′E, 563 m a.s.l.; 24°43′N, 113°02′E, 585 m a.s.l.) is examined. Using mitochondrial DNA sequence data (12S, 16S, ND4, cyt b; 2306 bp) and Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood analyses, the Tianjingshan pitvipers are revealed as sister to Protobothrops cornutus with a differentiation resembling those of P. flavoviridis and P. tokarensis. This indicates a close relationship with P. cornutus and suggests that Ceratrimeresurus shenlii Liang and Liu, 2003, previously considered a junior synonym of P. cornutus (Smith, 1930), could be a valid subspecies of P. cornutus or a recently split distinct species. However, further studies and samples from intermediate localities are needed to decide whether the observed differentiation reflects a pattern of isolation-by-distance or a phylogeographic, and thus perhaps taxonomically relevant, break.

Amphibia-Reptilia

Publication of the Societas Europaea Herpetologica

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