German Journal of Herpetology

Hurtado Gómez, J. P., M. Vargas Ramírez, F. J. Ruiz Gómez, A. Fouqet & U. Fritz

In Issues 2021

Multilocus phylogeny clarifies relation-ships and diversity within the Micrurus lemniscatus complex (Serpentes: Elapidae). pp. 229-239 plus Supplementary documents.

Abstract. The New World genus Micrurus contains more than 80 currently recognized species of venomous coral snakes. The taxonomy of the South American M. lemniscatus complex is controversial. Within this group, M. lemniscatus, M. carval hoi, M. diutius, M. frontifasciatus, and M. helleri have been treated either as distinct species or subspecies of M. lemniscatus. Additional species (M. filiformis, M. isozonus, M. potyguara, M. serranus) have also been proposed to belong to the M. lemniscatus complex but never included in a molecular phylogeny. In the present work, we sequenced four mitochondrial (12S, 16S, cyt b, ND4) and one nuclear (Cmos) genes using specimens of M. helleri from the Andean foothills of Colombia and Peru and M. filiformis from the Colombian Llanos. Supplemented by previously published sequences, we inferred the phylogeny of the M. lemniscatus complex using Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood approaches and estimated divergence times based on fossil-calibrated nodes. Our results strongly support the monophyly of the M. lemniscatus complex. Furthermore, populations traditionally assigned to M. helleri represent two non-sister lineages, one occurring along the Andean foothills and the other in lowland Amazonia. As a consequence, we restrict the name M. helleri to the populations of the Andean foothills. According to our results, the M. lemniscatus complex diverged from M. surinamensis during the late Miocene and diversified during the Plio-Pleistocene.

Key words. Biogeography, Elapidae, Serpentes, South America, Squamata, systematics.

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