The Levant represents one of the most important reptile diversity hotspots and centers of endemism in the Western Palearctic. The region harbored numerous taxa in glacial refugia during the Pleistocene climatic oscillations. Due to the hostile arid conditions in the warmer periods they were not always able to spread or come into contact with populations from more distant regions. One large and conspicuous member of the Levantine herpetofauna is the legless anguid lizard Pseudopus apodus. This species is distributed from the Balkans to Central Asia with a portion of its range running along the eastern Mediterranean coast. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences, microsatellite genotypes, and morphology show that populations in this region differ from the two named subspecies and presumably had a long independent evolutionary history during the Quaternary. Here we describe the Levantine population as a new subspecies and present biogeographic scenarios for its origin and diversification. The new subspecies is genetically highly diverse, and it forms a sister lineage to Pseudopus from the remaining parts of the range according to mtDNA. It is the largest-bodied of the three subspecies, but occupies the smallest range.
- Middle East
- Mitochondrial DNA