Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Phylogeographic patterns in reptiles on the New England Tablelands at the south-western boundary of the McPherson Macleay Overlap

D. J. Colgan A C , D. O’Meally A B and R. A. Sadlier A

A The Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia.

B Current address: Research School of Biological Sciences, The Australian National University, Acton, ACT 0200, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Zoology 57(5) 317-328
Submitted: 21 November 2008  Accepted: 2 June 2009   Published: 20 November 2009


Phylogeographic studies of eastern Australia have generally supported earlier biogeographical studies based on taxon distributions by concurring in the placement of significant intraspecific boundaries. Such studies may potentially clarify biogeographic boundaries that are presently unclear, such as the poorly defined southern edges of the McPherson Macleay Overlap. Here we investigate reptile phylogeography in the northern tablelands of New South Wales to study the south-western boundaries of the Overlap as these are especially uncertain. Cytochrome b sequences from Ctenotus robustus, C. taeniolatus and Oedura lesueurii, three lizard species widespread across the New England Tablelands, were analysed by examining single-strand conformational polymorphism and DNA sequencing. In both O. lesueurii and C. taeniolatus most deeper nodes within species define geographically localised clades. This was not the case for C. robustus. Boundaries between sister-group clades were discovered in multiple locations in the region – between Glen Innes and Armidale, between Armidale and Tamworth and to the south of the Liverpool Plains. The boundaries in C. taeniolatus and O. lesueurii were probably formed in at least two different periods. The phylogeographic patterns may be partly explained by glacially induced aridity cycles in the early Pleistocene or before.

Additional keywords: Ctenotus, gecko, McPherson Macleay Overlap, Oedura, phylogeographic boundary, skink.


Avise J. C. (2000). ‘Phylogeography: The History and Formation of Species.’ (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MS.)

Burbidge N. 1960 The phytogeography of Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 8 75 209 doi:10.1071/BT9600075

Chapple D. G. Keogh J. S. Hutchinson M. N. 2005 Substantial genetic structuring in southeastern and alpine Australia revealed by molecular phylogeography of the Egernia whitii (Lacertilia: Scincidae) species group. Molecular Ecology 14 1279 1292 doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02463.x

Cogger H. G. (2000). ‘Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia.’ 6th edn. (Reed-New Holland: Sydney.)

Colgan D. J. , and O’Meally D. (2006). Molecular systematics: implications for phylogeny, biogeography and conservation. In ‘Evolution and Biogeography of Australasian Vertebrates’. (Eds J. R. Merrick, M. Archer, G. M. Hickey and M. S. Y. Lee.) pp. 851–871. (Auscipub Pty Ltd: Sydney.)

Couper P. J. Sadlier R. A. Shea G. M. Worthington Wilmer J. 2008 A reassessment of Saltuarius swaini (Lacertilia: Diplodactylidae) in southeastern Queensland and New South Wales; taxa, phylogeny, biogeography and conservation. Records of the Australian Museum 60 87 118 doi:10.3853/j.0067-1975.60.2008.1492

Cracraft J. 1991 Patterns of diversification within continental biotas: hierarchical congruence among the areas of endemism of Australian vertebrates. Australian Systematic Botany 4 211 227 doi:10.1071/SB9910211

Craddock E. 1975 Intraspecific karyotypic differentiation in the Australian phasmatid Didymuria violescens (Leach). I. The chromosome races and their structural and evolutionary relationships. Chromosoma 53 1 24 doi:10.1007/BF00329387

Crochet P.-A. Chaline O. Surget-Groba Y. Debain C. Cheylana M. 2004 Speciation in mountains: phylogeography and phylogeny of the rock lizards genus Iberolacerta (Reptilia: Lacertidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 30 860 866 doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.07.016

Donnellan S. C. McGuigan K. Knowles R. Mahony M. Moritz C. 1999 Genetic evidence for species boundaries in frogs of the Litoria citropa species group (Anura: Hylidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 47 275 293 doi:10.1071/ZO99013

Edgecombe G. D. Colgan D. J. Sharkey D. 2006 Phylogeny and biogeography of the Australasian centipede Henicops (Chilopoda: Lithobiomorpha): a combined morphological and molecular approach. Insect Systematics & Evolution 37 241 256

Feldman C. R. Spicer G. S. 2006 Comparative phylogeography of woodland reptiles in California: repeated patterns of cladogenesis and population expansion. Molecular Ecology 15 2201 2222 doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.02930.x

Huelsenbeck J. P. Ronquist F. R. 2001 MRBAYES: Bayesian inference of phylogeny. Bioinformatics (Oxford, England) 17 754 755 doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/17.8.754

Hugall A. , Stanisic J. , and Moritz C. (2003). Trans-species phylogeography of the Sphaerospira lineage and history of Queensland rainforests: extinctions and speciation in a biogeographical context. In ‘The Molecular Systematics and Phylogeny of Molluscs’. (Eds C. Lydeard and D. Lindberg.) pp. 270–301. (Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC.)

Johnson D. (2004). ‘The Geology of Australia.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.)

Knowles R. Mahony M. Armstrong J. Donnellan S. 2004 Systematics of sphagnum frogs of the genus Philoria (Anura: Myobatrachidae) in eastern Australia, with the description of two new species. Records of the Australian Museum 56 57 74

Kocher T. D. Thomas W. K. Meyer A. Edwards S. V. Pääbo S. Villablanca F. X. Wilson A. C. 1989 Dynamics of mitochondrial DNA evolution in animals: amplification and sequencing with conserved primers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 86 6196 6200 doi:10.1073/pnas.86.16.6196

Lisiecki L. E. Raymo M. E. 2007 Plio-Pleistocene climate evolution: trends and transitions in glacial cycle dynamics. Quaternary Science Reviews 26 56 69 doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2006.09.005

Moussalli A. Hugall A. F. Moritz C. 2005 A mitochondrial phylogeny of the rainforest skink genus Saproscincus, Wells and Wellington (1984). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34 190 202 doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.08.022

O’Connor D. Moritz C. 2003 A molecular phylogeny of the Australian skink genera Eulamprus, Gnypetoscincus and Nangura. Australian Journal of Zoology 51 317 330 doi:10.1071/ZO02050

O’Meally D. Colgan D. J. 2005 Genetic ranking for biological conservation using information from multiple species. Biological Conservation 122 395 407 doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.08.008

Rambaut A. , and Drummond A. J. (2004). Tracer 1.4. Available at

Rossetto M. Crayn D. Ford A. Ridgeway P. Rymer P. 2007 The comparative study of range-wide genetic structure across related, co-distributed rainforest trees reveals contrasting evolutionary histories. Australian Journal of Botany 55 416 424 doi:10.1071/BT06195

Sadlier R. A. Colgan D. J. Shea G. M. 1994 Taxonomy and distribution of the Australian scincid lizard Saproscincus challengeri and related species in south-eastern Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 34 139 158

Sadlier R. A. Couper P. Colgan D. J. Vanderhuys E. Rickard E. 2005 Saproscincus eungellensis, a new species of scincid lizard from mid-eastern Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 51 559 571

Schäuble C. S. Moritz C. 2001 Comparative phylogeography of two open-forest frogs from eastern Australia. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 74 157 170

Schneider C. J. Cunningham M. Moritz C. 1998 Comparative phylogeography and the history of endemic vertebrates in the Wet Tropics rainforests of Australia. Molecular Ecology 7 487 498 doi:10.1046/j.1365-294x.1998.00334.x

Smith S. A. Austin C. C. Shine R. 2001 A phylogenetic analysis of variation in reproductive mode within an Australian lizard (Saiphos equalis, Scincidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 74 131 139 doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2001.tb01382.x

Sota T. Takami Y. Monteith G. B. Moore B. P. 2005 Phylogeny and character evolution of endemic Australian carabid beetles of the genus Pamborus based on mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36 391 404 doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.02.015

Swofford D. L. (2001). ‘PAUP*: Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony (* and other methods).’ Version 4b10. (Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MS.)

Tamura K. Dudley J. Nei M. Kumar S. 2007 MEGA4: Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis (MEGA) software version 4.0. Molecular Biology and Evolution 24 1596 1599 doi:10.1093/molbev/msm092

Thackway R. , and Creswell I. D. (Eds) (1995). An interim biogeographic regionalisation for Australia: a framework for setting priorities in the National Reserves System Cooperative Program. Reserves Systems Unit, Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.

Thompson J. D. Gibson T. J. Plewniak F. Jeanmougin F. Higgins D. G. 1997 The CLUSTAL X windows interface: flexible strategies for multiple sequence alignment aided by quality analysis tools. Nucleic Acids Research 25 4876 4882 doi:10.1093/nar/25.24.4876

Walker DeE. Avise J. C. 1998 Principles of phylogeography as illustrated by freshwater and terrestrial turtles in the southeastern United States. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 29 23 58 doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.29.1.23

Wilson S. , and Swan G. (2003). ‘A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia’. (Reed-New Holland: Sydney.)

Export Citation Cited By (13)