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Varanidae Asian origin
From: Ben Creisler
A new online paper:
Nicolas Vidal, Julie Marin, Julia Sassi, Fabia U. Battistuzzi, Steve
Donnellan, Alison J. Fitch, Bryan G. Fry, Freek J. Vonk, Ricardo C.
Rodriguez de la Vega, Arnaud Couloux, and S. Blair Hedges (2012)
Molecular evidence for an Asian origin of monitor lizards followed by
Tertiary dispersals to Africa and Australasia.
Biology Letters (advance online publication)
Monitor lizards are emblematic reptiles that are widely distributed in
the Old World. Although relatively well studied in vertebrate
research, their biogeographic history is still controversial. We
constructed a molecular dataset for 54 anguimorph species, including
representatives of all families with detailed sampling of the
Varanidae (38 species). Our results are consistent with an Asian
origin of the Varanidae followed by a dispersal to Africa 41 (49–33)
Ma, possibly via an Iranian route. Another major event was the
dispersal of monitors to Australia in the Late Eocene–Oligocene 32
(39–26) Ma. This divergence estimate adds to the suggestion that
Australia was colonized by several squamate lineages prior to the
collision of the Australian plate with the Asian plate starting 25 Ma.