Molecular systematics of primary reptilian lineages and the tuatara mitochondrial genome

Joshua S. Rest, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Jennifer C. Ast, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Christopher C. Austin, University of North Dakota
Peter J. Waddell, University of South Carolina
Elizabeth A. Tibbetts, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Jennifer M. Hay, Massey University Manawatu
David P. Mindell, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


We provide phylogenetic analyses for primary Reptilia lineages including, for the first time, Sphenodon punctatus (tuatara) using data from whole mitochondrial genomes. Our analyses firmly support a sister relationship between Sphenodon and Squamata, which includes lizards and snakes. Using Sphenodon as an outgroup for select squamates, we found evidence indicating a sister relationship, among our study taxa, between Serpentes (represented by Dinodon) and Varanidae. Our analyses support monophyly of Archosauria, and a sister relationship between turtles and archosaurs. This latter relationship is congruent with a growing set of morphological and molecular analyses placing turtles within crown Diapsida and recognizing them as secondarily anapsid (lacking a skull fenestration). Inclusion of Sphenodon, as the only surviving member of Sphenodontia (with fossils from the mid-Triassic), helps to fill a sampling gap within previous analyses of reptilian phylogeny. We also report a unique configuration for the mitochondrial genome of Sphenodon, including two tRNALys copies and an absence of ND5, tRNAHis, and tRNAThr genes. © 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.