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Keywords:

  • amphibians ;
  • Bayesian approaches ;
  • east Mediterranean ;
  • geodispersal ;
  • human-mediated ;
  • reptiles ;
  • transmarine dispersal

The colonization patterns of oceanic islands are often interpreted through transmarine dispersal. However, in islands with intense human activities and unclear geological history, this inference may be inappropriate. Cyprus is such an island, whose geotectonic evolution has not been clarified yet to the desired level for biogeographical reconstructions, leaving the questions of ‘how the Cypriote biota arrived’ and ‘does the dispersal have the formative role in patterns of its diversification’ unanswered. Here, we address these issues through a reconstruction of the evolutionary history of six herptiles (Ablepharus budaki, Ophisops elegans, Acanthodactylus schreiberi, Telescopus fallax, Pelophylax cf. bedriagae, and Hyla savignyi) by means of mitochondrial DNA (cytochrome b and 16S rRNA), applying a Bayesian phylogenetic, biogeographical, and chronophylogenetic analyses. The phylogeographical analyses show that the colonization history of those species in Cyprus started in the late Miocene and extended into the Pliocene and Pleistocene, with geodispersal, transmarine dispersal, and human-mediated dispersal having their share in shaping the diversification of Cypriote herptiles. The revealed patterns could be divided into three biogeographical categories: old colonizers that arrived in Cyprus during the late Miocene or early Pliocene either by a land bridge (geodispersal) which connected Cyprus with the mainland or by transmarine dispersal, younger colonizers that reached the island through transmarine dispersal from the Middle East, and new settlers that arrived through human-induced (voluntary or not) introductions. This work advances our knowledge of the biogeography of Cyprus and highlights the need to consider both geo- and transmarine dispersal when dealing with islands whose associations do not have a straightforward interpretation. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London