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Phylogeography of the European Whip Snake, Hierophis viridiflavus (Colubridae), using mtDNA and nuclear DNA sequences

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The phylogeography of the colubrid snake Hierophis viridiflavus was estimated using ND4 mtDNA sequences and a fragment of the nuclear marker β-fibrinogen intron 7. This species has a wide distribution across the Mediterranean region, and is characterized by three distinct colour patterns (“viridiflavus”, abundistic, and melanic-melanotic) with a quite well defined geographic distribution. The “viridiflavus” pattern occurs in the northwestern and central areas of the species' range, the abundistic pattern is typical of the individuals from Corsica and Sardinia, and the melanic-melanotic coloration is present in northeastern and southern Italy, and Sicily. A total of 42 individuals from most of the species' range (including Pyrenees, central France, Italian Peninsula, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily) were analyzed. Results support the existence of two different mtDNA lineages, one from Spain, France, Corsica, Sardinia, and continental Italy mainly west of the Apennines, and another one occurring in the southern part of Italy and northeast of the Apennines, with a 4% genetic divergence between them. Since both mtDNA lineages are found in northwestern Italy, where the “viridiflavus” colour pattern is almost exclusively found, it is clear that colour pattern is not linked to the mtDNA clades. The same is evident for β-fibrinogen, which is not subdivided geographically in the way that the mtDNA lineages are. Regarding Corsica and Sardinia, the limited genetic differentiation of island populations from the western continental lineage, indicates that these populations are a result of a recent colonization in accordance with recent described phylogeographic patterns.

Affiliations: 1: CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal, and Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, 4099-002 Porto, Portugal;, Email: catarina.rato@mail.icav.up.pt; 2: Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Università di Pisa, via Roma 79, I-56011 Calci (Pisa), Italy; 3: Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università di Firenze, Sezione di Zoologia “La Specola”, Via Romana 17, I-50125 Florence, Italy; 4: Dipartimento di Biologia Animale, Università di Pavia, piazza Botta 9, I-27100, Pavia, Italy; 5: Dipartimento di Biologia Animale, Università di Pavia, piazza Botta 9, I-27100, Pavia, Italy, Museo di Storia Naturale, Università di Pavia, piazza Botta 9, I-27100 Pavia, Italy; 6: Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, corso Venezia 55, I-20121 Milano, Italy; 7: CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal, and Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, 4099-002 Porto, Portugal; 8: CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal, and Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, 4099-002 Porto, Portugal

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