Monday, November 10, 2014

[Herpetology • 2014] The Phylogenetic Position and Taxonomic Status of the Rainbow Tree Snake Gonyophis margaritatus (Peters, 1871) (Squamata: Colubridae)

Royal Tree Snake – Gonyophis margaritatus (Peters, 1871)

Molecular phylogenies have provided strong evidence for clarifying the taxonomy of groups with ambiguous morphological traits, thus avoiding potentially misleading conclusions based on evolutionary convergence of these traits. For snakes, established molecular databases along with new sequences from rare species allows us to estimate phylogenies, to clarify the phylogenetic relationships and test the monophyly of most taxonomic groups. Using one mitochondrial gene and five nuclear loci, we evaluate the taxonomic status of a rare Southeast Asian serpent, the Rainbow Tree Snake Gonyophis margaritatus (Squamata: Colubridae) by inferring a molecular phylogeny of 101 snake species. Both maximum likelihood and time- calibrated Bayesian inference phylogenies demonstrate that G. margaritatus is sister to Rhadinophis prasinus, previously considered to be part of a radiation of Old World ratsnakes. This group is in turn sister to a group containing Rhadinophis frenatus and Rhynchophis boulengeri with the entire clade originating in the mid-Miocene (~16 Ma) in Southeast Asia. This group is sister to the genus Gonyosoma and together originated in the early Miocene (~20 Ma). We discuss three potential solutions towards eliminating polyphyly of the genus Rhadinophis, but recommend using the genus name Gonyosoma for all species within this clade, which currently contains all of the species within the genera Gonyosoma, Gonyophis, Rhadinophis, and Rhynchophis.

Keywords: Gonyophis, Gonyosoma, molecular phylogeny, polyphyly, Rhadinophis, Rhynchophis

Gonyosoma margaritatum Peters, 1871 Gonyosoma prasinum (Blyth 1854)
Gonyosoma frenatum (Gray, 1853) Gonyosoma oxycephalum (Boie 1827)

Gonyosoma Wagler 
Gonyosoma Wagler, 1828. Type species Gonyosoma oxycephalum (Boie)
Gonyophis Boulenger, 1891. Type species Gonyophis margaritatus (Peters), by monotypy Syn.n.
Rhadinophis Vogt, 1922. Type species Rhadinophis frenatus (Gray) Syn.n. 
Rhynchophis Mocquard, 1897. Type species Rhynchophis boulengeri Mocquard, by monotypy Syn.n.

 Species synonymized into the genus Gonyosoma.
Gonyosoma margaritatum Peters, 1871
Gonyosoma frenatum (Gray, 1853)
Gonyosoma prasinum (Blyth 1854)
Gonyosoma boulengeri (Mocquard 1897)
Gonyosoma oxycephalum (Boie 1827)
Gonyosoma jansenii (Bleeker 1859)

Chen, Xin, Alexander D. Mckelvy, L. L. Grismer, Masafumi Matsui, Kanto Nishikawa & Frank T. Burbrink. 2014. The Phylogenetic Position and Taxonomic Status of the Rainbow Tree Snake Gonyophis margaritatus (Peters, 1871) (Squamata: Colubridae).
Zootaxa. 3881(6): 532–548. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3881.6.3