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Maximizing information in systematic revisions: a combined molecular and morphological analysis of a cryptic green pitviper complex (Trimeresurus stejnegeri)




Although the integration of DNA information in taxonomy has been invaluable, logistical problems relating to sampling can seriously limit its applicability. Here we describe the analysis of a morphologically cryptic species complex, in which we maximize the information present by using both a DNA phylogeny and a multivariate morphometric approach. The green pitviper Trimeresurus stejnegeri s.l. is widespread in Asia, with a number of described subspecies (some of which are considered full species by some workers) and two new species that have recently been described from Thailand. The phylogeny indicates three clades, which can also be discerned in the principal component analyses of morphological variation. Combining molecular and morphological information permits evaluation of the taxonomic position of populations not represented in the phylogeny − in particular, the subspecies T. s. chenbihui and T. s. yunnanensis. We discuss nomenclatural issues raised by this analysis, although these cannot be fully resolved until the holotypes of these subspecies can be examined. Finally, we apply a molecular clock calibrated in New World pitvipers, and discuss some of the palaeoclimatic changes that might have impacted upon diversification in this group. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 82, 219–235.