Geographic patterns in morphological variation of the meadow lizard, Darevskia praticola (Lacertidae): taxonomical and biogeographical implications
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Background and Purpose: The range of the meadow lizard (Darevskia praticola) is divided into two discontinuous portions. oils: western (southeastern Europe), and eastern one (Caucasus). However, there is inuch obscurity concerning the morphological differentiation and biogeography of the species. This includes questions oil the taxonomic status of isolated populations, particularly in the north-western part of the range. The main purpose of this study was to determine the degree of morphological differentiation among populations of D. praticola from both portions of the species range. Materials and Methods: A multivariate analyses of 58 morphometric. meristic and qualitative characters were performed oil 14 population samples across the Caucasian and westermost portion of the distribution of the meadow lizard in south-eastern Europe. Results and Conclusions: All three sets of characters revealed similar pattern of variation ill extent of clear division between northern Caucasian/Transcaucasian and western Caucasian/Serbian groups of samples, corresponding to current taxonomic treatment of these groups as D. p. praticola and D. p. pontica, respectively. However, substantial morphological differentiation was observed within both taxa, particularly oil the basis of qualitative traits. In D. p. praticola discrimination existed between northern and southern Caucasian group of samples, as well as with in the latter group. Morphological subdivision within current subspecies of D. praticola implies complex refugial history, and colonization routes during the Quaternary, with the possible existence of more than two intraspecific taxa.