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A phylogeny of Central African Boaedon (Serpentes: Lamprophiidae), with the description of a new cryptic species from the Albertine Rift

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journal contribution
posted on 12.06.2015 by Eli Greenbaum, Frank Portillo, Kate Jackson, Chifundera Kusamba

The Central African house snake Boaedon olivaceus has a large distribution from the forests of West Africa to Mabira Forest in Uganda. We sequenced two mitochondrial (cyt b and ND4) and two nuclear (c-mos and RAG1) genes from several populations of B. olivaceus in Central Africa and recovered two highly divergent lineages (Congo Basin and Albertine Rift) attributable to this species. Dating analyses with BEAST suggest the two lineages last shared a common ancestor during the mid-Miocene approximately 12 million years ago, and data from RAG1 showed consistent differences in two amino acids for topotypic Congo Basin B. olivaceus compared to the Albertine Rift lineage and all other examined species of Boaedon. Based on these striking molecular differences and significant differences in ventral scale counts and the number of supralabials contacting the eye, we describe the Albertine Rift lineage as a new species. The recognition of this new species bolsters the importance of the Albertine Rift as an important region for endemism and conservation in continental Africa. Based on the results of our phylogenetic analyses, the poorly known taxon Lycodonomorphus subtaeniatus upembae is elevated to full species status and transferred to the genus Boaedon.