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Keywords:

  • Glacial refugia;
  • Hunter Valley;
  • lizard;
  • Miocene;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • ND4;
  • phylogeography;
  • Pleistocene;
  • Pliocene;
  • reptile

Abstract

Aim  To investigate the impact of climatic oscillations and recognized biogeographic barriers on the evolutionary history of the garden skink (Lampropholis guichenoti), a common and widespread vertebrate in south-eastern Australia.

Location  South-eastern Australia.

Methods  Sequence data were obtained from the ND4 mitochondrial gene for 123 individuals from 64 populations across the entire distribution of the garden skink. A range of phylogenetic (maximum likelihood, Bayesian) and phylogeographic analyses (genetic diversity, Tajima’s D, ΦST, mismatch distribution) were conducted to examine the evolutionary history and diversification of the garden skink.

Results  A deep phylogeographic break (c. 14%), estimated to have occurred in the mid–late Miocene, was found between ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ populations across the Hunter Valley in northern New South Wales. Divergences among the geographically structured clades within the ‘northern’ (five clades) and ‘southern’ (seven clades) lineages occurred during the Pliocene, with the location of the major breaks corresponding to the recognized biogeographic barriers in south-eastern Australia.

Main conclusions  Climatic fluctuations and the presence of several elevational and habitat barriers in south-eastern Australia appear to be responsible for the diversification of the garden skink over the last 10 Myr. Further molecular and morphological work will be required to determine whether the two genetic lineages represent distinct species.