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Comparative mitochondrial phylogeography of two legless lizards (Pygopodidae) from Queensland’s fragmented woodlands

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-03-02, 07:53 authored by Jessica Worthington Wilmer, Andrew P. Amey, Carmel McDougal, Melanie Venz, Stephen Peck, Paul M. Oliver

Sclerophyll woodlands and open forests once covered vast areas of eastern Australia, but have been greatly fragmented and reduced in extent since European settlement. The biogeographic and evolutionary history of the biota of eastern Australia’s woodlands also remains poorly known, especially when compared to rainforests to the east, or the arid biome to the west. Here we present an analysis of patterns of mitochondrial genetic diversity in two species of Pygopodid geckos with distributions centred on the Brigalow Belt Bioregion of eastern Queensland. One moderately large and semi-arboreal species, Paradelma orientalis, shows low genetic diversity and no clear geographic structuring across its wide range. In contrast a small and semi-fossorial species, Delma torquata, consists of two moderately divergent clades, one from the ranges and upland of coastal areas of south-east Queensland, and other centred in upland areas further inland. These data point to varying histories of geneflow and refugial persistance in eastern Australia’s vast but now fragmented open woodlands. The Carnarvon Ranges of central Queensland are also highlighted as a zone of persistence for cool and/or wet-adapted taxa, however the evolutionary history and divergence of most outlying populations in these mountains remains unstudied.