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Open Access Research article

Mitochondrial genomes of acrodont lizards: timing of gene rearrangements and phylogenetic and biogeographic implications

Yasuhisa Okajima12 and Yoshinori Kumazawa2*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Biological Science, Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan

2 Department of Information and Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Natural Sciences, Nagoya City University, 1 Yamanohata, Mizuho-cho, Mizuho-ku, Nagoya 467-8501, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:141  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-141

Published: 13 May 2010

Abstract

Background

Acrodonta consists of Agamidae and Chamaeleonidae that have the characteristic acrodont dentition. These two families and Iguanidae sensu lato are members of infraorder Iguania. Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of iguanian lizards still remain to be elucidated in spite of a number of morphological and molecular studies. This issue was addressed by sequencing complete mitochondrial genomes from 10 species that represent major lineages of acrodont lizards. This study also provided a good opportunity to compare molecular evolutionary modes of mitogenomes among different iguanian lineages.

Results

Acrodontan mitogenomes were found to be less conservative than iguanid counterparts with respect to gene arrangement features and rates of sequence evolution. Phylogenetic relationships were constructed with the mitogenomic sequence data and timing of gene rearrangements was inferred on it. The result suggested highly lineage-specific occurrence of several gene rearrangements, except for the translocation of the tRNAPro gene from the 5' to 3' side of the control region, which likely occurred independently in both agamine and chamaeleonid lineages. Phylogenetic analyses strongly suggested the monophyly of Agamidae in relation to Chamaeleonidae and the non-monophyly of traditional genus Chamaeleo within Chamaeleonidae. Uromastyx and Brookesia were suggested to be the earliest shoot-off of Agamidae and Chamaeleonidae, respectively. Together with the results of relaxed-clock dating analyses, our molecular phylogeny was used to infer the origin of Acrodonta and historical biogeography of its descendant lineages. Our molecular data favored Gondwanan origin of Acrodonta, vicariant divergence of Agamidae and Chamaeleonidae in the drifting India-Madagascar landmass, and migration of the Agamidae to Eurasia with the Indian subcontinent, although Laurasian origin of Acrodonta was not strictly ruled out.

Conclusions

We detected distinct modes of mitogenomic evolution among iguanian families. Agamidae was highlighted in including a number of lineage-specific mitochondrial gene rearrangements. The mitogenomic data provided a certain level of resolution in reconstructing acrodontan phylogeny, although there still remain ambiguous relationships. Our biogeographic implications shed a light on the previous hypothesis of Gondwanan origin of Acrodonta by adding some new evidence and concreteness.