Homoplastic evolution of external colouration in Asian stout newts (Pachytriton) inferred from molecular phylogeny


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Wu, Y., Wang, Y., Jiang, K., Chen, X. & Hanken, J. (2010). Homoplastic evolution of external colouration in Asian stout newts (Pachytriton) inferred from molecular phylogeny.-Zoologica Scripta, 39, 9-22.The Asian stout newts of the genus Pachytriton (Salamandridae) inhabit montane streams in south-eastern China. Despite their abundance in the pet trade, the phylogeny and systematics of this genus are poorly understood. Colouration is often used to delimit species under the assumption that consistent chromatic differences characterize independent evolutionary lineages. We present the first phylogenetic study of Pachytriton that incorporates 2.35 kb of mitochondrial DNA (ND2, cytb) and 1.2 kb of nuclear sequence data (RAG-1) along with morphometric characters to infer evolutionary relationships and patterns of colour evolution among the three described species: Pachytriton brevipes, Pachytriton labiatus and Pachytriton archospotus. Our results support the monophyly of Pachytriton and recover P. archospotus as the sister taxon to P. brevipes. Monophyly of P. labiatus is significantly rejected: south-western populations are sister to the group of P. brevipes plus P. archospotus, whereas north-eastern populations nest with P. brevipes. The two geographic units are further separated by multivariate morphological analyses. South-western P. labiatus is the type species; misidentification of north-eastern populations as P. labiatus results from their similar colouration. An unspotted, dark brown dorsum is the likely ancestral state for the genus, whereas black-spotted colouration characterized the common ancestor of P. brevipes, P. archospotus, and north-eastern P. labiatus and was secondarily lost in the latter group. Homoplastic evolution and intraspecific variation render colour pattern in Pachytriton an unreliable character for delimiting species boundaries. North-eastern populations of P. labiatus are declining as the result of human collection and habitat destruction and are in urgent need of conservation protection.


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Last updated on 05/14/2015