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An evaluation of the taxonomic validity of Testudo werneri

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The Egyptian tortoise Testudo kleinmanni was recently split into two species on the basis of apparent differences in shell morphology and markings. Testudo kleinmanni was restricted to areas west of the Nile river and a new form, T. werneri, was described which occurred east of the Nile river (Perälä, 2001). However, when the morphometric analysis on which this decision was based (Perälä, 2001) was adjusted to allow for experiment-wise Type I error, by using P-value corrections, the proportion of the 46 characters that differed significantly between the two populations fell from 36.9% to only 13% in males and from 39.1% to just 8.7% in females. We then conducted a new morphometric analysis using our own data set that showed minor significant variation in morphometric and plastron markings between populations. An analysis of mitochondrial DNA based on 393 base pairs of the 12S rRNA gene, also showed near uniformity of western and eastern populations. Genetic divergence was only 0.2%, with the only consistent difference being a single G – A substitution at position 205. Based on the revised interpretation of Perälä (2001) results, our morphometric analysis on our own data set, and the molecular evidence, the variation observed between populations is normal within a species and therefore T. werneri is not a distinct independent evolutionary lineage and should not be considered a separate species from T. kleinmanni.

Affiliations: 1: Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management, Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne, 2101 E. Coliseum Blvd., Fort Wayne, IN 46805, USA; 2: Nature Conservation Sector, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, 3 Abdalla El Katib St., Dokki, Cairo, Egypt; 3: Departament de Biologia Animal, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain; 4: Department of Biology, California State University, Fresno, 2555 East San Ramon Avenue M/S SB73, Fresno, CA 93740, USA; 5: Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K.


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