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Issue:ISSN 1000-7083
          CN 51-1193/Q
Director:Sichuan Association for Science and Technology
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Intraspecies Systematics of the Steppe Racerunner (Eremias arguta) in Bole Region and Ily River Valley, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China
Author of the article:GONGXiongLIUJinlong,ZHOUTianhe,SONGQi,GUOxianguang
Author's Workplace:Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Key Words:Eremias arguta; Ily River Valley; intraspecies systematics; morphology; new record; phylogeny
Abstract:The Steppe Racerunner, Eremias arguta, is one of the most widespread species of the Eurasian racerunners (genus Eremias), inhabiting steppes and semi-deserts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia from Romania to western Mongolia and China. Historically, six subspecies were recognized, with two subspecies occuring in China; however, the taxonomic status of some subspecies is still controversial due in part to their high morphological variability. The present study deals with the intraspecies systematics of the populations in Bole region and Ily River Valley, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, through morphological observation and sequencing of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b (Cyt b) gene. Cyt b gene sequences of Eremias arguta available in the GenBank were compiled for comparison with the obtained haplotypes. Tree-based subspecies delimitation was achieved by using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses. Bayes factors were used to test the competing hypotheses for E. arguta by comparing the unconstrained Bayesian tree topology to Bayesian trees with ‘hard’ constraints. The morphlogical features of the population in Bole matched the description of those from the Ily River Valley, with the dorsal pattern being characterized by presence of bright blue or green ocelli in breeding males. Phylogenetic trees congruently indicated that the haplotypes from Bole region belong to the Ily River Valley clade, which represents a yet undescribed taxon (E. arguta ssp.). Three different subspecies assignments with respect to the populations from the Ily River Valley were rejected with very strong evidence, including E. a. arguta, or E. a. potanini, or E. a. uzbekistanica. The Ily River Valley clade is most likely the sister taxon to the clade leading to E. a. uzbekistanica and the Issyk-Kul Lake subspecies E. a. darevskii; meanwhile, there is no strong evidence against an alternative hypothesis that E. arguta ssp. is sister to the clade joining all other lineages of E. arguta. In addition, the reciprocal monophyly of E. a. potanini and E. a. arguta were recovered albeit with low bootstrap values and moderate Bayesian posterior probalilities. An alternative topology with samples of E. a. potanini being nested within the E. a. arguta clade was not rejected with very strong evidence. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that (i) the Steppe Racerunners in Bole region is not E. a. potanini, but belong to the Ily River Valley clade, representing a new record of E. arguta spp. in Junggar Depression, Xinjiang, China; (ii) the populations from the Ily River Valley should not be designated as E. a. arguta or E. a. potanini or E. a. uzbekistanica, but belong to a cryptic clade (subspecies); (iii) the phylogenetic placement of the novel clade (subspecies) is unclear, needing further clarification with the integrative taxonomic approach. Finally, in combination with morphological varability, we discuss the validity of the E. a. potanini.
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