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Geographic differentiation and cryptic diversity in the monocled cobra, Naja kaouthia (Elapidae) from Thailand

Ratnarathorn, N; Harnyuttanakorn, P; Chanhome, L; Evans, SE; Day, JJ; (2019) Geographic differentiation and cryptic diversity in the monocled cobra, Naja kaouthia (Elapidae) from Thailand. Zoologica Scripta , 48 (6) pp. 711-726. 10.1111/zsc.12378.

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Abstract

South‐East Asia has an exceptionally high diversity of snakes, with more than 250 snake species currently recorded from Thailand. This diversity likely reflects the diverse range of geographical and climatic conditions under which they live, but the evolutionary history and population genetics of many snake species in South‐East Asia have been little investigated in comparison with morphological studies. Here, we investigated genetic variation in the monocled cobra, Naja kaouthia, Lesson, 1831, across its distribution range in Thailand using mitochondrial DNA (cytochrome b, control region) for ~100 individuals and the nuclear DNA gene (C‐mos) for a small subset. Using population genetic and phylogenetic methods, we show high levels of genetic variation between regional populations of this non‐spitting cobra, including the north‐eastern, north‐central and southern regions, in addition to a population on Pha‐ngan Island, 150 km offshore from the southern peninsula. Moreover, inclusion of the north‐eastern population renders N. kaouthia paraphyletic in relation to other regional Naja species. The north‐eastern population is therefore probably specifically distinct. Given that these cobras are otherwise undifferentiated based on colour and general appearance to the “typical” cobra type of this region, they would represent a cryptic species. As has been shown in other animal groups from Thailand, it is likely that the geographical characteristics and/or tectonic alteration of these regions have facilitated high levels of population divergence of N. kaouthia in this region. Our study highlights the need for dense sampling of snake populations to reveal their systematics, plan conservation and facilitate anti‐snake venom development.

Type: Article
Title: Geographic differentiation and cryptic diversity in the monocled cobra, Naja kaouthia (Elapidae) from Thailand
DOI: 10.1111/zsc.12378
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/zsc.12378
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: cryptic specie,s molecular phylogenetics, monocled cobra, phylogeography, snakes
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10076933
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