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Biogeographic patterns and phylogeography of dwarf chameleons (Bradypodion) in an African biodiversity hotspot


Krystal A. Tolley, Present address: Molecular Systematics Lab, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Private Bag X7, Claremont 7735, Cape Town, South Africa. Fax: +27-21-808-2405; E-mail:


The southern African landscape appears to have experienced frequent shifts in vegetation associated with climatic change through the mid-Miocene and Plio–Pleistocene. One group whose historical biogeography may have been affected by these fluctuations are the dwarf chameleons (Bradypodion), due to their associations with distinct vegetation types. Thus, this group provides an opportunity to investigate historical biogeography in light of climatic fluctuations. A total of 138 dwarf chameleons from the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa were sequenced for two mitochondrial genes (ND2 and 16S), and resulting phylogenetic analyses showed two well-supported clades that are distributed allopatrically. Within clades, diversity among some lineages was low, and haplotype networks showed patterns of reticulate evolution and incomplete lineage sorting, suggesting relatively recent origins for some of these lineages. A dispersal-vicariance analysis and a relaxed Bayesian clock suggest that vicariance between the two main clades occurred in the mid-Miocene, and that both dispersal and vicariance have played a role in shaping present-day distributions. These analyses also suggest that the most recent series of lineage diversification events probably occurred within the last 3–6 million years. This suggests that the origins of many present-day lineages were founded in the Plio–Pleistocene, a time period that corresponds to the reduction of forests in the region and the establishment of the fynbos biome.

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