Molecular systematics of the Philippine forest skinks (Squamata: Scincidae: Sphenomorphus): testing morphological hypotheses of interspecific relationships




Skinks of the genus Sphenomorphus are the most diverse clade of squamates in the Philippine Archipelago. Morphological examination of these species has defined six phenotypic groups that are commonly used in characterizations of taxonomic hypotheses. We used a molecular phylogeny based on four mitochondrial and two nuclear genes to assess the group's biogeographical history in the archipelago and examine the phylogenetic validity of the currently recognized Philippine species groups. We re-examined traditional characters used to define species groups and used multivariate statistics to quantitatively evaluate group structure in morphometric space. Clustering analyses of phenotypic similarity indicate that some (but not all) members of previously defined species groups are phenotypically most similar to other members of the same group. However, when species group membership was mapped on our partitioned Bayesian phylogenetic hypothesis, only one species group corresponds to a clade; all other species group arrangements are strongly rejected by our phylogeny. Our results demonstrate that (1) previously recognized species group relationships were misled by phenotypic convergence; (2) Sphenomorphus is widely paraphyletic; and (3) multiple lineages have independently invaded the Philippines. Based on this new perspective on the phylogenetic relationships of Philippine Sphenomorphus, we revise the archipelago's diverse assemblage of species at the generic level, and resurrect and/or expand four previously recognized genera, and describe two new genera to accommodate the diversity of Philippine skinks of the Sphenomorphus group.

© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 163, 1217–1243.