Get access

Extensive genetic divergence in the East Asian natricine snake, Rhabdophis tigrinus (Serpentes: Colubridae), with special reference to prominent geographical differentiation of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene in Japanese populations




We investigated intraspecific phylogenetic relationships in the natricine snake, Rhabdophis tigrinus. A partial sequence of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (990 bp) was sequenced for 220 individuals from 112 populations. The phylogeny indicated monophyly of the Japanese populations against the continental and Taiwanese populations, sister relationships of the Japanese and continental populations, and monophyly of the whole species. The results strongly suggested substantial genetic divergences among population assemblages from those three regions. We thus consider both lateralis from the continent, which is often synonymized to R. tigrinus, and formosanus from Taiwan, which is usually regarded as a subspecies of the latter, as distinct full species based on the evolutionary species concept. In the Japanese populations, haplotypes were classified to in two major clades (I and II) that were parapatric to each other. Clade I consisted of three distinct subclades (I-A, I-B, and I-C), of which the former two were parapatric with each other, whereas the latter was sympatric with each of the former two subclades. The geographical haplotype structure exhibited by the Japanese populations is likely to have resulted from a series of allopatric differentiations with rapid range extensions of resultant lineages, leading to secondary contact or further admixture of mitochondrial haplotype clades and subclades. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 105, 395–408.