Phylogeography of skinks (Chalcides) in the Canary Islands inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences


R. P. Brown Fax: +44 (0) 151 2074594; E-mail:


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evolution was investigated in skinks of the genus Chalcides found in the Canary Islands (Ch. sexlineatus, Ch. viridanus and Ch. simonyi), together with some North African congenerics (Ch. polylepis and Ch. mionecton). Several sites were included within islands to cover areas of known within-island geographical variation in morphology. Skinks from the islands of El Hierro and La Gomera appear to be sister taxa. The relationships between this clade and the Tenerife and Gran Canarian skinks were not fully resolved, although the best working hypothesis indicated monophyly with the former, with the latter forming a closely related outgroup. Ch. simonyi from Fuerteventura was more distantly related to the Western Canary Island skinks and did not show close relationships with the North African species Ch. mionecton and Ch. polylepis. Possible colonization sequences for the four most Western Canary Islands were considered. El Hierro appears to have been colonized relatively recently from La Gomera, commensurate with the recent origin of this island, while dispersal between La Gomera and Tenerife and between Gran Canaria and Tenerife or La Gomera appears to have taken place considerably earlier. Substantial within-island haplotype divergence was found in Gran Canaria and Tenerife. This may be a result of recent periods of intense volcanic activity found within these two islands. Lower levels of within-island differentiation are found in La Gomera and El Hierro and may be explained by lower levels of volcanic activity during recent geological history and a more recent colonization, respectively.