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New evidence on the phylogenetic position of the poorly known Asian pitviper Protobothrops kaulbacki (Serpentes: Viperidae: Crotalinae) with a redescription of the species and a revision of the genus Protobothrops

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Although much systematic work has been done in recent years on the Asian pitviper genus Protobothrops, the phylogenetic position of P. kaulbacki remains poorly understood due to its rarity and the inaccessibility of its range. This species has long been regarded as morphologically close to P. jerdonii and therefore has been widely treated as a member of Protobothrops. In this paper, we evaluate the phylogenetic position of this species using skull characteristics, hemipenial, ecological and molecular data. A molecular phylogeny, based on four mitochondrial genes, shows that the species forms a very highly supported sister-group relationship with Triceratolepidophis sieversorum, and is distinct from all other Protobothrops species. We discuss the alternative systematic arrangements that could take into account these newly discovered relationships of P. kaulbacki, provide a redescription of the species and summarize the available information on the distribution and natural history of P. kaulbacki.
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Keywords: HEMIPENIS; MOLECULAR SYSTEMATICS; MORPHOLOGY; NATURAL HISTORY; TRICERATOLEPIDOPHIS; ZHAOERMIA

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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