Phylogenetics of the southern African dwarf chameleons, Bradypodion (Squamata: Chamaeleonidae)
The taxonomic relationships within the dwarf chameleons (Bradypodion) of southern Africa have long been controversial. Although informal phenotypic groups have been suggested, the evolutionary relationships among the 15 recognised species in southern Africa have not been previously investigated. To investigate the relationships among species within this genus, fragments of two mitochondrial genes (16S ribosomal RNA and ND2) were sequenced and analysed using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference. All analyses showed congruent topologies, revealing at least 5 well-supported clades distributed across distinct geographic regions. The mtDNA gene tree indicated that in many instances, geographic location has played a role in shaping the evolution of this group, and that the previously suggested phenotypic groupings do not adequately reflect evolutionary relationships. Furthermore, it appears that some of the currently recognised species (described on morphology) are polyphyletic for mitochondrial sequences, most notably those occurring in the isolated forest patches of north-eastern South Africa, near the Drakensberg Escarpment. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.