Biogeographic History of Cerastes Vipers of the Sahara and Arabian Deserts

Barros, Margarida

Velo-Antón, Guillermo



Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos da Universidade do Porto                      Instituto de Ciências Agrárias de Vairão.

R. Padre Armando Quintas, 4485-661                                                                                                             Vairão, Portugal


Carranza, Salvador


Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF)

Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta

37-49, E-08003

Barcelona, Spain


Crochet, Pierr-André


CEFE UMR 5175CNRS                                                                                                                                               Université de Montpellier - Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier – EPHE                                                         1919 route de Mende, 34293                                                                                                                    Montpellier cedex 5, France


García-Cardenete, Luis


Carrera de San Agustín

24, 18300 Loja                                                                                                                                                                

Granada, Spain


Brito, José *


Departamento de Biologia                                                                                                                             Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto                                                                                              Rua Campo Alegre 4169-007                                                                                                                                      Porto, Portugal


Martínez-Freiría, Fernando*


Pleistocene climatic oscillations have influenced biogeographical patterns of species worldwide, affecting distributional ranges and shaping genetic diversity. The Sahara and Arabian deserts are outstanding regions to study the influence of climate in the genetic structure and variability of species given their accentuated and dynamic climatic history, and the diverse life history and habitat traits of taxa inhabiting such extreme regions. This study aims to address the role of Pleistocene climatic oscillations in the evolutionary histories of the three Cerastes viper species (Viperinae): C. cerastes and C. vipera from the Sahara Desert, and C. gasperetti from deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. Phylogenetic structure was inferred using Bayesian inference over sequences (68 samples mostly covering species ranges) for one mtDNA (COI) and three nuDNA (PRLR, NT3, VIM) gene markers. Paleoclimatic models combined 318 occurrences and five climatic variables in Maxent to infer climatic suitability for current and past (mid Holocene, Last Glacial Maximum and Last Inter Glacial) events, and stability over time. Mitochondrial inferences show C. cerastes and C. gasperetti as sister taxa, while C. vipera is identified as a phylogenetically more distant species. Further levels of mtDNA structure within the three species were originated along the middle and late Pleistocene. Nuclear inferences, however, resulted in important discordances to mtDNA patterns. Paleoclimatic models identified warm events as major drivers of range reduction and isolation for the three species we studied. Areas of high climatic stability across the Sahara and Arabian deserts likely acted as Pleistocene climatic refugia for species and lineages.

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