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Phylogeny and biogeography of water skinks of the genus Tropidophorus (Reptilia: Scincidae): a molecular approach


  • Masanao Honda,

  • Hidetoshi Ota,

  • Robert W. Murphy,

  • Tsutomu Hikida

Masanao Honda, Faculty of Education, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan. E-mail:
Hidetoshi Ota, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan. E-mail:
Robert W. Murphy, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C6, Canada. E-mail:
Tsutomu Hikida, Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan. E-mail:


Phylogenetic relationships of the Oriental semiaquatic lygosomine skinks of the genus Tropidophorus were inferred from 1219 base positions of mitochondrial 12S and 16S rRNA genes. Results of the phylogenetic analyses incorporating data for representatives of other lygosomine genera indicated that the basal phylogenetic split within Tropidophorus separated a clade of continental Indochinese species exclusive of T. cocincinensis and T. microlepis from one comprising T. cocincinensis, T. microlepis and species from Borneo, Sulawesi and the Philippines. Of the latter group, the two continental species form the sister taxon to a clade comprising the island species. Diversification among species in Indochina and among Borneo, the Philippines and Sulawesi was likely concentrated in the Miocene, with no apparent dispersal among these regions during the Pleistocene. The body depression recognized in several Indochinese species is likely to have occurred twice in parallel as an adaptation to saxicolous habitats.