Incongruence between taxonomy and genetics: three divergent lineages within two subspecies of the rare Transcaucasian rat snake (Zamenis hohenackeri)

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Two morphologically differentiated subspecies with presumably allopatric distribution have traditionally been recognized in the rare Transcaucasian rat snake, Zamenis hohenackeri: Z. h. hohenackeri (Caucasus region and E Turkey, NW Iran and N Iraq) and Z. h. tauricus (S Anatolia and Levant). Both subspecies are sometimes considered just colour forms of a monotypic species. We used sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b to find out whether both subspecies are also genetically differentiated, or whether their haplotypes form a cluster without clear subdivision. We found that the species forms three divergent lineages: one corresponds to the nominotypic subspecies, another comprises an individual from the region of the type locality of Z. h. tauricus in southern Anatolia and the third, with no available name and separated from the previous by the Amanos (Nur) Mountains, is distributed in the Levant. The pattern of divergence and distribution of the lineages correspond to other species of amphibians and reptiles, demonstrating that similar geo-climatic events presumably formed genetic variation and triggered speciation processes in this region.

Incongruence between taxonomy and genetics: three divergent lineages within two subspecies of the rare Transcaucasian rat snake (Zamenis hohenackeri)

in Amphibia-Reptilia


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    Map showing the origin of Z. hohenackeri samples used in this study. The range of Z. hohenackeri in dark grey colour is based on published records reviewed in Schulz (1996) and Sindaco, Venchi and Grieco (2013). It is not clear whether the records from northern central Turkey and western Iran (dark grey circles) represent isolated occurrences or extremes of a continuous distribution. Origin of the samples: Z. h. hohenackeri – 1) Chechenia, Russia, pet trade sample, 2) Boshuri, Georgia, 3) Artvin, Turkey, 4) Trabzon, Turkey (Burbrink and Lawson, 2007); Z. h. tauricus – 5) Adana, Turkey; Z. hohenackeri Southern lineage – 6) Hatay, Turkey, 7) Bcharré (Cedars), Lebanon.

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    Maximum likelihood haplotype tree of 1102 bp fragment of Cytb mtDNA showing the phylogenetic relationships within the genus Zamenis, with emphasis on Z. hohenackeri. The substitution model TIM2 + G was selected under AIC. The statistical support of the branches is expressed as percentage bootstrap values/Bayesian posterior probabilities. Letters/numbers accompanying the terminal clade names are haplotype names; (GB) – sequences obtained from GenBank.

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