Aim We discuss biogeographical hypotheses for the Mediterranean lizard species Podarcis and Teira within a phylogenetic framework based on partial mitochondrial DNA sequences.
Methods We derived the most likely phylogenetic hypothesis from our data set (597 aligned positions from the 12S rDNA and phenyl tRNA) under parsimony, distance and maximum likelihood assumptions.
Results The species usually included in Teira do not form a strongly monophyletic clade. In contrast, the monophyly of the genus Podarcis is rather well supported. Seven lineages are identified in the genus; in order of appearance within the tree, these are: the Balearic pityusensis and lilfordi pair, the sicula complex, a Tyrrhenian tiliguerta and raffonei pair, muralis, the Siculo-Maltese filfolensis and wagleriana pair, the Balkan group (erhardi, peloponnesiaca, milensis, melisellensis and taurica), and the Ibero-Maghrebian group (bocagei, atrata, hispanica and vaucheri).
Conclusions The origin of the three European genera of lacertid assayed (Lacerta, Teira and Podarcis) is hypothesized to have occurred in the Oligocene. For Podarcis, a possible scenario of a Miocene diversification is derived from the sequence data, and the zoogeography of the lineages are discussed in relation to the palaeogeography of the Mediterranean. It is hypothesized that in the early history of the genus the main lineages separated by rapid, numerous and close events that produced a starting point very similar to a polytomy, hard to resolve by parsimony analysis of the data set.