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Keywords:

  • Bayesian phylogenetics;
  • biogeography;
  • crotaphytidae;
  • ecological niche modeling;
  • introgression conveyor

We investigate the roles of mitochondrial introgression and incomplete lineage sorting during the phylogenetic history of crotaphytid lizards. Our Bayesian phylogenetic estimate for Crotaphytidae is based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence data for 408 individuals representing the 12 extant species of Crotaphytus and Gambelia. The mitochondrial phylogeny disagrees in several respects with a previously published morphological tree, as well as with conventional species designations, and we conclude that some of this disagreement stems from hybridization-mediated mitochondrial introgression, as well as from incomplete lineage sorting. Unidirectional introgression of Crotaphytus collaris (western collared lizard) mitochondria into C. reticulatus (reticulate collared lizard) populations in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas has resulted in the replacement of ancestral C. reticulatus mitochondria over approximately two-thirds of the total range of the species, a linear distance of ∼270 km. Introgression of C. collaris mitochondria into C. bicinctores (Great Basin collared lizard) populations in southwestern Arizona requires a more complex scenario because at least three temporally separated and superimposed introgression events appear to have occurred in this region. We propose an “introgression conveyor” model to explain this unique pattern of mitochondrial variation in this region. We show with ecological niche modeling that the predicted geographical ranges of C. collaris, C. bicinctores, and C. reticulatus during glacial maxima could have provided enhanced opportunities for past hybridization. Our analyses suggest that incomplete lineage sorting and/or introgression has further confounded the phylogenetic placements of additional species including C. nebrius, C. vestigium, C. insularis, C. grismeri, and perhaps G. copei. Despite many independent instances of interspecific hybridization among crotaphytid lizards, the species continue to maintain morphological and geographic cohesiveness throughout their ranges.