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Phylogeography of the Western Lyresnake (Trimorphodon biscutatus): testing aridland biogeographical hypotheses across the Nearctic–Neotropical transition



    1. Museum of Natural Science and Department of Biological Sciences, 119 Foster Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
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Thomas J. Devitt, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 3101 Valley Life Sciences Building, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3160, USA. Fax: 510-643-8238; E-mail:


The Western Lyresnake (Trimorphodon biscutatus) is a widespread, polytypic taxon inhabiting arid regions from the warm deserts of the southwestern United States southward along the Pacific versant of Mexico to the tropical deciduous forests of Mesoamerica. This broadly distributed species provides a unique opportunity to evaluate a priori biogeographical hypotheses spanning two major distinct biogeographical realms (the Nearctic and Neotropical) that are usually treated separately in phylogeographical analyses. I investigated the phylogeography of T. biscutatus using maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from across this species’ range. Phylogenetic analyses recovered five well-supported clades whose boundaries are concordant with existing geographical barriers, a pattern consistent with a model of vicariant allopatric divergence. Assuming a vicariance model, divergence times between mitochondrial lineages were estimated using Bayesian relaxed molecular clock methods calibrated using geological information from putative vicariant events. Divergence time point estimates were bounded by broad confidence intervals, and thus these highly conservative estimates should be considered tentative hypotheses at best. Comparison of mtDNA lineages and taxa traditionally recognized as subspecies based on morphology suggest this taxon is comprised of multiple independent lineages at various stages of divergence, ranging from putative secondary contact and hybridization to sympatry of ‘subspecies’.