Using multilocus approach to uncover cryptic diversity within Pseudotrapelus lizards from Saudi Arabia

Karin Tamar*, Laurent Chirio, Mohammed Shobrak, Salem Busais, Salvador Carranza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The agamid Pseudotrapelus lizards inhabit the mountainous areas of the Arabian Peninsula and eastern North Africa. Currently six Pseudotrapelus species are recognised, though diagnostic morphological characters are still lacking, creating great difficulty in describing new species. Recently, two specimens of Pseudotrapelus were collected from the vicinity of Riyadh in central Saudi Arabia, an area that was not sampled in previous phylogenetic studies. In here we used both mitochondrial and nuclear data to investigate the phylogenetic position of the new samples, and assess their phylogenetic relationships with the other recognised species of Pseudotrapelus from across the distribution range of the genus. We used a multilocus approach of haplotype networks, concatenated datasets and species trees, performed mitochondrial and nuclear species delimitation analyses, and estimated divergence times. In general, our results support previous molecular studies and uncover the presence of cryptic diversity within Pseudotrapelus. The phylogenetic structure of the genus is of two major clades and within them seven distinct, delimited phylogenetic groups belonging to the six recognised species and the seventh to the individuals from Riyadh. The Riyadh specimens were distinct in all analyses performed. We suggest that the new specimens from the Riyadh area are a distinct lineage, forming a clade with their phylogenetic relatives, P. sinaitus and P. chlodnickii. The clade formed by these three species diverged during the Late Miocene around 6.4 Ma, with cladogenesis possibly facilitated by vicariance and isolation caused due to climatic fluctuations and the progression of sandy areas. Our results suggest further morphological research is necessary to revise the taxonomic status of this lineage and of the entire genus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1442-1449
Number of pages8
JournalSaudi Journal of Biological Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Agamidae
  • Arabia
  • Multilocus phylogeny
  • Reptiles
  • Species delimitation


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