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Article
Published: 2018-08-01

Integration of nuclear and mitochondrial gene sequences and morphology reveals unexpected diversity in the forest cobra (Naja melanoleuca) species complex in Central and West Africa (Serpentes: Elapidae)

Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor LL57 2UW, United Kingdom.
14 Rue des Roses, 06130 Grasse, France.
Laboratoire de Paludologie et Zoologie médicale, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), MIVEGEC, B.P. 1386, Dakar, Sénégal.
Institut Systématique Evolution Biodiversité (ISYEB), Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, EPHE, 57 rue Cuvier, CP 30, 75005 Paris, France.
Department of Biology, Whitman College, 345 Boyer Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W University Avenue, El Paso, TX 79968, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W University Avenue, El Paso, TX 79968, USA.
Laboratoire d’Herpétologie, Département de Biologie, Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Lwiro, DR Congo.
Hielscherstr. 25, D-13158 Berlin, Germany.
Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor LL57 2UW, United Kingdom.
Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor LL57 2UW, United Kingdom.
Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor LL57 2UW, United Kingdom.
Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor LL57 2UW, United Kingdom. Evolutionary and Adaptive Genomics Group, Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25, Haus 29, 14476 Potsdam (Golm), Germany.
Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe, PO Box 240, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Integrative taxonomy Africa Naja melanoleuca Naja guineensis sp. nov. Naja savannula sp. nov. Elapidae systematics Reptilia

Abstract

Cobras are among the most widely known venomous snakes, and yet their taxonomy remains incompletely understood, particularly in Africa. Here, we use a combination of mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences and morphological data to diagnose species limits within the African forest cobra, Naja (Boulengerina) melanoleuca. Mitochondrial DNA sequences reveal deep divergences within this taxon. Congruent patterns of variation in mtDNA, nuclear genes and morphology support the recognition of five separate species, confirming the species status of N. subfulva and N. peroescobari, and revealing two previously unnamed West African species, which are described as new: Naja (Boulengerina) guineensis sp. nov. Broadley, Trape, Chirio, Ineich & Wüster, from the Upper Guinea forest of West Africa, and Naja (Boulengerina) savannula sp. nov. Broadley, Trape, Chirio & Wüster, a banded form from the savanna-forest mosaic of the Guinea and Sudanian savannas of West Africa. The discovery of cryptic diversity in this iconic group highlights our limited understanding of tropical African biodiversity, hindering our ability to conserve it effectively.

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How to Cite

WÜSTER, W., CHIRIO, L., TRAPE, J.-F., INEICH, I., JACKSON, K., GREENBAUM, E., BARRON, C., KUSAMBA, C., NAGY, Z. T., STOREY, R., HALL, C., WÜSTER, C. E., BARLOW, A., & BROADLEY, D. G. (2018). Integration of nuclear and mitochondrial gene sequences and morphology reveals unexpected diversity in the forest cobra (<em>Naja melanoleuca</em>) species complex in Central and West Africa (Serpentes: Elapidae). Zootaxa, 4455(1), 68–98. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4455.1.3