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Phylogenetic relationships of the African egg-eating snake Dasypeltis scabra

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

The unusual morphological adaptations associated with specialization on a diet of eggs have been used as evidence to justify familial or subfamilial status for the egg-eating snakes, including the African genus Dasypeltis. We evaluate the phylogenetic relationships of Dasypeltis scabra by comparing albumin evolution in Dasypeltis and available representative colubrine taxa using the quantitative immunological technique of micro-complement fixation. We find that Dasypeltis scabra is included among a large colubrine assemblage containing racers (Coluber, Masticophis, Spalerosophis, and Ptyas), the ratsnake Elaphe, and the kingsnake Lampropeltis. Further, these data suggest that Dasypeltis is genetically most similar to some members of a racer lineage and arose from an ancestral colubrine stock as early as ten million years ago.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology and Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics, Penn State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA; 2: Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY, 10003. USA


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