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Incongruence between taxonomy and genetics: three divergent lineages within two subspecies of the rare Transcaucasian rat snake (Zamenis hohenackeri)

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Two morphologically differentiated subspecies with presumably allopatric distribution have traditionally been recognized in the rare Transcaucasian rat snake, Zamenis hohenackeri: Z. h. hohenackeri (Caucasus region and E Turkey, NW Iran and N Iraq) and Z. h. tauricus (S Anatolia and Levant). Both subspecies are sometimes considered just colour forms of a monotypic species. We used sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b to find out whether both subspecies are also genetically differentiated, or whether their haplotypes form a cluster without clear subdivision. We found that the species forms three divergent lineages: one corresponds to the nominotypic subspecies, another comprises an individual from the region of the type locality of Z. h. tauricus in southern Anatolia and the third, with no available name and separated from the previous by the Amanos (Nur) Mountains, is distributed in the Levant. The pattern of divergence and distribution of the lineages correspond to other species of amphibians and reptiles, demonstrating that similar geo-climatic events presumably formed genetic variation and triggered speciation processes in this region.

Affiliations: 1: 3Department of Biology, Faculty of Science and Arts, Adnan Menderes University, 09010 Aydin, Turkey


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