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Phylogeny, divergence times and species limits of spiny lizards (Sceloporus magister species group) in western North American deserts and Baja California


Adam D. Leaché, Fax: +1 510 643 8238; E-mail:


The broad distribution of the Sceloporus magister species group (squamata: phrynosomatidae) throughout western North America provides an appropriate model for testing biogeographical hypotheses explaining the timing and origins of diversity across mainland deserts and the Baja California Peninsula. We inferred concordant phylogenetic trees describing the higher-level relationships within the magister group using 1.6 kb of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and 1.7 kb of nuclear DNA data. These data provide strong support for the parallel divergence of lineages endemic to the Baja California Peninsula (S. zosteromus and the orcutti complex) in the form of two sequential divergence events at the base of the magister group phylogeny. A relaxed phylogenetic analysis of the mtDNA data using one fossil and one biogeographical constraint provides a chronology of these divergence events and evidence that further diversification within the Baja California clades occurred simultaneously, although patterns of geographical variation and speciation between clades differ. We resolved four major phylogeographical clades within S. magister that (i) provide a novel phylogenetic placement of the Chihuahuan Desert populations sister to the Mojave Desert; (ii) illustrate a mixed history for the Colorado Plateau that includes Mojave and Sonoran Desert components; and (iii) identify an area of overlap between the Mojave and Sonoran Desert clades near Yuma, Arizona. Estimates of bidirectional migration rates among populations of S. magister using four nuclear loci support strong asymmetries in gene flow among the major mtDNA clades. Based on the nonexclusivity of mtDNA haplotypes, nuclear gene flow among populations and wide zones of phenotypic intergradation, S. magister appears to represent a single geographically variable and widespread species.

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