Molecular evidence for an Asian origin of monitor lizards followed by Tertiary dispersals to Africa and Australasia

N Vidal, J Marin, J Sassi, F Battistuzzi, Steve Donnellan, Alison Fitch, B Fry, F Vonk, R De La Vega, A Couloux, S Hedges

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    Abstract

    Monitor lizards are emblematic reptiles that are widely distributed in the Old World. Although relatively well studied in vertebrate research, their biogeographic history is still controversial. We constructed a molecular dataset for 54 anguimorph species, including representatives of all families with detailed sampling of the Varanidae (38 species). Our results are consistent with an Asian origin of the Varanidae followed by a dispersal to Africa 41 (49-33) Ma, possibly via an Iranian route. Another major event was the dispersal of monitors to Australia in the Late Eocene- Oligocene 32 (39-26) Ma. This divergence estimate adds to the suggestion that Australia was colonized by several squamate lineages prior to the collision of the Australian plate with the Asian plate starting 25 Ma.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)853-855
    Number of pages3
    JournalBiology Letters
    Volume8
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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    Vidal, N., Marin, J., Sassi, J., Battistuzzi, F., Donnellan, S., Fitch, A., Fry, B., Vonk, F., De La Vega, R., Couloux, A., & Hedges, S. (2012). Molecular evidence for an Asian origin of monitor lizards followed by Tertiary dispersals to Africa and Australasia. Biology Letters, 8(5), 853-855. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2012.0460