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Phylogenetic relationships of north-eastern Australian earless dragons (Agamidae: Tympanocryptis spp.), with description of three new species.
Kirilee Chaplin (1,2), Steve K. Wilson (3), Joanna Sumner (1), & Jane Melville (1*)
Earless dragons (Tympanocryptis spp.) are found in most environments across the Australian continent, with the 21 currently described species inhabiting a variety of ecological niches, from stony desert to tropical woodland or cracking clay savannahs. Recent work has indicated a revision of the taxonomy of north-eastern Australian earless dragons is required. Focussing on this geographic region, we use the mitochondrial ND2 gene (987bp) to investigate the phylogenetic relationships among currently described earless dragons and newly delimited putative species, with an assessment of broad biogeographic divisions. We found significant structure across the north-eastern Australian lineages, with deep divergence between lineages occurring in the inland Great Artesian Basin region and more coastal Great Dividing Range. Regional diversification is estimated to have occurred in the late Miocene with subsequent Plio-Pleistocene speciation. The diversity of the north-eastern Australian earless dragon group is consistent with that seen in other areas of historic aridification with habitat expansions and contractions, including the Western Australian Tympanocryptis species group. Based on these data, we describe three new species of Tympanocryptis from the cracking clay grasslands of the Darling Riverine Basin and Queensland Central Highlands regions, and the stony open eucalypt woodlands on the Einasleigh Uplands. The revision of these north-eastern Australian earless dragon species provides further taxonomic clarity within the Tympanocryptis genus.
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