The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 02. Phylogenetic relationships among Australian elapid snakes: the soft anatomical data reconsidered


Open Access


Authors: Michaels. Y. Lee

Abstract: On the basis of an extensive set of visceral and scale characters, Wallach (1985) proposed a detailed phylogenetic scheme for all the Australian elapids, down to species level. The shortest tree found in that analysis is here shown to contain 592 steps. However, a re-analysis of the same data using PAUP 3.1.1 reveals that there are 258 most parsimonious trees, each with only 578 steps. The strict consensus of these trees is much less resolved than Wallach 's tree, and has a different topology. For example, Echiopsis is most closely related to Sutafasciata rather than to the Notechis lineage, and Dernansia is more closely related to advanced elapids (such as the Notechis lineage) than to Oxyuranus and Pseudonaja. Many of the larger (suprageneric) groupings proposed by Wallach are paraphyletic in the PAUP consensus tree. Almost all the groupings in this tree, however, can be collapsed with the addition of a single extra step. There are more than 32 OOO cladograms at 579 steps, one step longer than the 258 most parsimonious cladograms. A strict consensus tree of cladograms 578 and 579 steps long is almost completely unresolved. The visceral and external morphological traits, therefore, are not as phylogenetically informative as previously proposed, at least with respect to the Australian elapid radiation. These types of characters might not be very phylogenetically informative at higher (intergeneric) levels, although much more data are required to test this hypothesis.

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