Phylogenetic Relationships of Elapid Snakes Based on Cytochrome b mtDNA Sequences

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Published molecular phylogenetic studies of elapid snakes agree that the marine and Australo–Melanesian forms are collectively monophyletic. Recent studies, however, disagree on the relationships of the African, American, and Asian forms. To resolve the relationships of the African, American, and Asian species to each other and to the marine/Australo–Melanesian clade, we sequenced the entire cytochrome b gene for 28 elapids; 2 additional elapid sequences from GenBank were also included. This sample includes all African, American, and Asian genera (except for the rare African Pseudohaje), as well as a representative sample of marine/Australo–Melanesian genera. The data were analyzed by the methods of maximum-parsimony and maximum-likelihood. Both types of analyses yielded similar trees, from which the following conclusions can be drawn: (1) Homoroselaps falls outside a clade formed by the remaining elapids; (2) the remaining elapids are divisible into two broad sister clades, the marine/Australo–Melanesian species vs the African, American, and Asian species; (3) American coral snakes cluster with Asian coral snakes; and (4) the “true” cobra genus Naja is probably not monophyletic as the result of excluding such genera as Boulengerina and Paranaja.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Herpetology, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, 94118 2: Division of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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