Phylogeny and divergence times of some racerunner lizards (Lacertidae: Eremias) inferred from mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene segments.Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Nov; 61(2):400-12.MP
Eremias, or racerunners, is a widespread lacertid genus occurring in China, Mongolia, Korea, Central Asia, Southwest Asia and Southeast Europe. It has been through a series of taxonomic revisions, but the phylogenetic relationships among the species and subgenera remain unclear. In this study, a frequently studied region of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA was used to (i) reassess the phylogenetic relationships of some Eremias species, (ii) test if the viviparous species form a monophyletic group, and (iii) estimate divergence time among lineages using a Bayesian relaxed molecular-clock approach. The resulting phylogeny supports monophyly of Eremias sensu Szczerbak and a clade comprising Eremias, Acanthodactylus and Latastia. An earlier finding demonstrating monophyly of the subgenus Pareremias is corroborated, with Eremias argus being the sister taxon to Eremias brenchleyi. We present the first evidence that viviparous species form a monophyletic group. In addition, Eremias przewalskii is nested within Eremias multiocellata, suggesting that the latter is likely a paraphyletic species or a species complex. Eremias acutirostris and Eremias persica form a clade that is closely related to the subgenus Pareremias. However, the subgenera Aspidorhinus, Scapteira, and Rhabderemias seem not to be monophyletic, respectively. The Bayesian divergence-time estimation suggests that Eremias originated at about 9.9 million years ago (with the 95% confidence interval ranging from 7.6 to 12 Ma), and diversified from Late Miocene to Pleistocene. Specifically, the divergence time of the subgenus Pareremias was dated to about 6.3 million years ago (with the 95% confidence interval ranging from 5.3 to 8.5 Ma), which suggests that the diversification of this subgenus might be correlated with the evolution of an East Asian monsoon climate triggered by the rapid uplift of the Tibetan Plateau approximately 8 Ma.