A phylogeny of the European lizard genus Algyroides (Reptilia: Lacertidae) based on DNA sequences, with comments on the evolution of the group

Authors

  • D. James Harris,

    1. Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K.
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  • E. Nicholas Arnold,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K.
      *All correspondence to: E. N. Arnold, Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K. E-mail: ena@nhm.ac.uk
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  • Richard H. Thomas

    1. Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K.
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*All correspondence to: E. N. Arnold, Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K. E-mail: ena@nhm.ac.uk

Abstract

The four species of Algyroides Bibron & Bory, 1833 form part of the relatively plesiomorphic Palaearctic clade of lacertids comprising Lacerta and its allies. An estimate of phylogeny based on DNA sequence from parts of the 12S and 16S rRNA mitochondrial genes confirms the monophyly of the genus already suggested by several morphological features. The molecular data also indicates that relationships within the clade are: (A. nigropunctatus (A. moreoticus (A. fitzingeri, A. marchi))); this agrees with an estimate of phylogeny based on morphology that assumes the taxon ancestral to Alygroides was relatively robust in body form, and not strongly adapted to using crevices. Initial morphological evolution within Algyroides appears to involve adaptation to crypsis in woodland habitats. The most plesiomorphic form (A. nigropunctatus) is likely to have originally climbed extensively on tree boles and branches and there may have been two subsequent independent shifts to increased use of litter and vegetation matrices with related anatomical changes (A. moreoticus, A. fitzingeri), and one to increased use of crevices (A. marchi). Some members of Algyroides are strikingly similar in superficial morphology to particular species of the equatorial African genus Adolfus. This resemblance results from a combination of many shared primitive features plus a few independently acquired derived ones that are likely to give performance advantage in the relatively similar structural niches that these forms occupy. This study provides evidence that: (1) the use of a combination of molecular and morphological data may sometimes allow the estimation of ancestral anatomical features when these are otherwise unknown; (2) process considerations may permit a choice to be made in cases of character evolution where tree topology means that equally parsimonious alternatives exist; such decisions about character evolution may allow ecological shifts to be similarly assessed; (3) parallel evolution in ecological analogues may involve relatively few characters.

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