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RE: Elaphe/Pantherophis/Pituophis?

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Posted by: CKing at Sat Apr 19 03:17:40 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by CKing ]  
   

>>"Most commonly accepted" is a difficult thing to evaluate. IMO, it's clear that Pantherophis is the right name, though, and that retention of Elaphe tends to obscure present knowledge.

Pantherophis has been used informally by Dowling when he discusses the North American species of Elaphe, but he did not formally propose the name for the North American Elaphe. Rather than obscuring present knowledge, the retention of Elaphe actually informs us of the relationship between North American forms of this genus and the Eurasian species. Elaphe ought not be broken up unless it is polyphyletic. It has been known for decades that Elaphe is paraphyletic (since it has been known that Pituophis, Lammpropeltis and Stilosoma et al. form a clade with N. American Elaphe), but no one bothered to break it up on that basis.

>>"Has the DNA really proven the Pituophis placement?"
>>
>>Unequivocally no. Different analyses (i.e., maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian) of the same data give different results (as evident for MP & ML in the publication by Burbrink & Lawson, although they do not discuss this at all), and no analyses give strong support. Neither monophyly of either genus nor relationship of each to other members of tribe Lampropeltini is resolved at this point.

As I said, Elaphe is a well known paraphyletic taxon. It is also well known (and supported by immunological data) that Arizona is closely related to Pituophis. It is therefore also likely that recognition of Arizona elegans will make Pituophis paraphyletic. I presume that you use the term "monophyly" sensu Hennig. It would be tragic if Pituophis is broken up into several genera should it be found not to be "monophyletic" when it is indeed monophyletic sensu Darwin, Simpson and Mayr.

>>I've got a very brief submission to Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution (the same journal that published Burbrink & Lawson's study) on this point. I should hear soon whether or not it has been accepted for publication.

I hope it gets published. I will keep it in mind next time I am in the library and see if I can find the article.


   

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