Friday, September 9, 2011

Epicrates maurus

Epicrates maurus. JCM
The Rainbow Boas of the genus Epicrates are widespread in the Caribbean with nine species and another five species that range from Costa Rica to Argentina. Recent molecular work shows the genus to be paraphyletic, and the mainland species will undoubtedly remain in the genus Epicrates while the West Indian forms will probably be placed in another genus, perhaps Fischer's genus Homalochilus that is now in the synonymy of Epicrates striatus.

Recently, Rivera et al. (2011) have analyzed two independent data sets, environmental niche models and phylogeny based on molecular information, to explore species delimitation in the continental species of this genus. Their results indicated that the environmental requirements of the species are different and are not ecological interchangeable. The authors found a correlation between species distributions and the major biogeographic regions of Central and South America. The distribution of the five species reveals that allopatry or parapatry is the general pattern suggesting that habitat isolation prevents or limits gene flow between the species. Their phylogenetic reconstruction shows that the mainland Epicrates are monophyletic and the sister to the anacondas (Eunectes). E. maurus shows a disjunct distribution, and is present in the dry forest of the biogeographic regions Pacific Coast, Venezolana, Savanna, Guajira and some areas in the Amazonic domain, in Central America and Northern South America. On Trinidad and Tobago this snake does quite well in the presence of humans and can be found in urban and agriculture areas, habitat use that might be expected of a species that uses dry forests.

Rivera PC, Di Cola V, Martínez JJ, Gardenal CN, Chiaraviglio M (2011) Species Delimitation in the Continental Forms of the Genus Epicrates (Serpentes, Boidae) Integrating Phylogenetics and Environmental Niche Models. PLoS ONE 6(9): e22199. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022199

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