Molecular phylogenetics and mitochondrial genomic evolution in the Chamaeleonidae (Reptilia, Squamata)

Ted Townsend, Allan Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


A phylogenetic hypothesis for the lizard family Chamaeleonidae is generated from 1503 aligned base positions (883 parsimony-informative) of mitochondrial DNA for specimens representing 59 species (57 ingroup and two outgroup). Sequences are reported for a genomic segment encoding eight transfer RNAs, NADH dehydrogenase component 2 (ND2), and portions of NADH dehydrogenase component 1 (ND1) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI). Newly reported genomic rearrangements and duplications support the hypothesis that mitochondrial gene order and content are destabilized by phylogenetic loss of a functional origin for light-strand replication between the genes encoding tRNA Asn and tRNA Cys. A novel gene order characterizes all sampled Brookesia except B. nasus. Brookesia nasus, the apparent sister taxon of a clade formed by all other Brookesia, has the ancestral gene order but contains a large tandem duplication. An apparently noncoding 220 base pair insertion between the genes encoding ND2 and tRNA Trp is reported for Bradypodion tavetanum. Phylogenetic analysis identifies nine clades whose ancestral lineages diverged early in chamaeleonid evolutionary history: (1) Brookesia (possibly excluding B. nasus), (2) Chamaeleo subgenus Chamaeleo (excluding C. namaquensis), (3) Chamaeleo subgenus Trioceros, (4) viviparous Bradypodion, (5) oviparous Bradypodion, (6) genus Furcifer (except F. balteatus), and (7-9) three distinct clades of Calumma. Chamaeleo namaquensis, Brookesia nasus, Furcifer balteatus, Rhampholeon brevicaudatus, and R. spectrum represent ancient lineages dating to approximately the same time. Multiple independent losses and a possible secondary gain of horns are inferred for Trioceros. Viviparity has at least two separate origins in chameleons, one in Bradypodion and one in Trioceros.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-36
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Chamaeleonidae
  • Gene organization
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Phylogenetics
  • Reptilia
  • Sauria
  • tRNA


Dive into the research topics of 'Molecular phylogenetics and mitochondrial genomic evolution in the Chamaeleonidae (Reptilia, Squamata)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this