Wednesday, February 10, 2021

[Herpetology • 2018] Cryptic Diversity in Rhampholeon boulengeri (Sauria: Chamaeleonidae), A Pygmy Chameleon from the Albertine Rift Biodiversity Hotspot

in Hughes, Tolley, Behangana, .. et Kusamba, 2018. 

• Species diversity of pygmy chameleons in the Albertine Rift is underestimated.
Rhampholeon boulengeri is a complex of at least 6 species.
• Diversification via allopatry underlies genetic patterns in genus-level phylogeny.
• The R. boulengeri complex exhibits signatures of parapatric speciation.
• We discuss the importance of investigating cryptic diversity in the montane Afrotropics.

Several biogeographic barriers in the Central African highlands have reduced gene flow among populations of many terrestrial species in predictable ways. Yet, a comprehensive understanding of mechanisms underlying species divergence in the Afrotropics can be obscured by unrecognized levels of cryptic diversity, particularly in widespread species. We implemented a multilocus phylogeographic approach to examine diversity within the widely distributed Central African pygmy chameleon, Rhampholeon boulengeri. Gene-tree analyses coupled with a comparative coalescent-based species delimitation framework revealed R. boulengeri as a complex of at least six genetically distinct species. The spatiotemporal speciation patterns for these cryptic species conform to general biogeographic hypotheses supporting vicariance as the main factor behind patterns of divergence in the Albertine Rift, a biodiversity hotspot in Central Africa. However, we found that parapatric species and sister species inhabited adjacent habitats, but were found in largely non-overlapping elevational ranges in the Albertine Rift, suggesting that differentiation in elevation was also an important mode of divergence. The phylogeographic patterns recovered for the genus-level phylogeny provide additional evidence for speciation by isolation in forest refugia, and dating estimates indicated that the Miocene was a significant period for this diversification. Our results highlight the importance of investigating cryptic diversity in widespread species to improve understanding of diversification patterns in environmentally diverse regions such as the montane Afrotropics.

Keywords: Biodiversity, Biogeography, Burundi, Diversification, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Molecular systematics, Phylogeography, Rwanda, Uganda

Daniel F. Hughes, Krystal A. Tolley, Mathias Behangana, Wilber Lukwago, Michele Menegon, J. Maximilian Dehling, Jan Stipala, Colin R. Tilbury, Arshad M. Khan and Chifundera Kusamba. 2018. Cryptic Diversity in Rhampholeon boulengeri (Sauria: Chamaeleonidae), A Pygmy Chameleon from the Albertine Rift Biodiversity Hotspot. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 122; 125-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.11.015