Molecular phylogeny and hemipenial diversity of South American species of Amerotyphlops (Typhlopidae, Scolecophidia)

Typhlopidae is the most diverse family of Scolecophidia, with 269 species. Amerotyphlops was recently erected within subfamily Typhlopinae and comprises fifteen species distributed from Mexico to Argentina and the southern Lesser Antilles. Despite recent advances, affinities among typhlopines remain poorly explored, and the phylogenetic relationships and morphology of the South American (SA) species were never accessed before. Here, we performed a phylogenetic analysis including 106 species of Typhlopidae and ten genes. Our dataset represents the most comprehensive for SA species, containing seven of eight recognized species. Corroborating previous studies, we recovered the main groups of Typhlopoidea, and for typhlopines, we recovered with strong support two clades: (a) the Greater Antilles radiation, and the (b) Lesser Antilles and SA radiation. Within the SA radiation, we recovered four main lineages: (a) a clade formed by A. tasymicris and A. minuisquamus; (b) a clade composed by A. reticulatus as the sister group of all other SA species; (c) a clade composed by A. brongersmianus as the sister group of a clade comprising all Northeast Brazilian Species (NBS); and (d) a clade of the NBS, including A. yonenagae, A. arenensis, A. paucisquamus, and A. amoipira. We supplemented our phylogenetic result with the description of hemipenial morphology for seven SA species and comment their relevance to the systematics of Typhlopinae. Hemipenes of SA Amerotyphlops follow the general pattern in scolecophidians (single organ with undivided sulcus). Only A. reticulatus and A. minuisquamus have organs with calcified spines. According to our results, hemipenial ornamentation have shown highly informative and could represent a potential source of systematic and taxonomic characters in that group. We also present an extensive review of the geographical distribution for all SA species. Our study represents the first integrative analysis of a poorly known evolutionary radiation of one of the most widespread SA fossorial snakes.

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Graboski R, Arredondo JC., Grazziotin FG, da Silva AA.A., Prudente AL.C., Rodrigues MT., et al. Molecular phylogeny and hemipenial diversity of South American species of Amerotyphlops (Typhlopidae, Scolecophidia). Zool Scr. 2019 Mar;48(2):139-156. doi:10.1111/zsc.12334.
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