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Albumin and mitochondrial DNA evolution: Phylogenetic implications for colubrine snakes (Colubridae: Colubrinae)

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Previous molecular analyses of colubrine snake relationships have been based on estimates of amino acid sequence differences in the nuclear-encoded protein, serum albumin. Phylogenetic hypotheses based on albumin data are compared to new trees derived from nucleotide sequence variation in a 307-base pair (bp) region of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene and a 384-bp region of the mitochondrial gene encoding the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) subunit. There are so many multiple substitutions at degenerate sites in the cytochrome b sequences that little phylogenetic signal remains, leaving major conclusions based on the more informative 16S rRNA sequences. Analyses of the sequence data using both parsimony and genetic distance algorithms are largely congruent with earlier conclusions based on albumin, and corroborate (1) the monophyly of the ratsnakes, (2) the derivation of the ratsnake clade from within the racer lineage, and (3) the monophyly of the Nearctic racer clade (Coluber + Masticophis). The 16S rRNA data provide greater resolution of relationships within the racer lineage than either the cytochrome b or albumin data. The trees based on cytochrome b and 16S rRNA sequences do not support monophyly of the racers, in contrast to the albumin data.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology and Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA


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