Molecular Tests of Phylogenetic Taxonomies: A General Procedure and Example Using Four Subfamilies of the Lizard Family Iguanidae

James A. Schulte, J. Robert MacEy, Allan Larson, Theodore J. Papenfuss

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A general procedure is described for examining when results of molecular phylogenetic analyses warrant formal revision of taxonomies constructed using morphological characters. We illustrate this procedure with tests of monophyly for four subfamilies in the lizard family Iguanidae using 1561 aligned base positions (838 phylogenetically informative) of mitochondrial DNA sequences, representing coding regions for eight tRNAs, ND2, and portions of ND1 and COI. Ten new sequences ranging in length from 1732 to 1751 bases are compared with 12 previously reported sequences and 67 morphological characters (54 phylogenetically informative) from the literature. New morphological character states are provided forSator.Phylogenies derived from the molecular and combined data are in agreement but both conflict with phylogenetic inferences from the morphological data alone. Strong support is found for the monophyly of the subfamilies Crotaphytinae and Phrynosomatinae. Monophyly of the Iguaninae is weakly supported in each analysis. All analyses suggest that the Tropidurinae is not monophyletic but the hypothesis of monophyly cannot be rejected. A phylogenetic taxonomy is proposed in which the Tropidurinae* is maintained as ametataxon(denoted with an asterisk), for which monophyly has not been demonstrated. Within the Phrynosomatinae, the close relationship ofSatorandSceloporusis questioned and an alternative hypothesis in whichSatoris the sister taxon to a clade comprisingPetrosaurus, Sceloporus,andUrosaurusis presented. Statistical tests of monophyly provide a powerful way to evaluate support for taxonomic groupings. Use of themetataxonprevents premature taxonomic rearrangements where support is lacking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1998


  • Reptilia; Squamata; Iguania; Iguanidae; Crotaphytinae; Iguaninae; Phrynosomatinae; Tropidurinae;Sator;mitochondrial DNA; phylogenetics; taxonomy; monophyly tests;metataxon.


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