Researchers with the University of Helsinki have reconstructed the evolutionary tree of snakes of the superfamily Elapoidea. "Snakes are not just d
Researchers with the University of Helsinki have reconstructed the evolutionary tree of snakes of the superfamily Elapoidea.
“Snakes are not just diverse, but they are very important ecologically. The venomous snakes are important medically as well. What would happen if the knowledge on the evolution and classification of such an important group were in tatters?” Sunandan Das told Phys.org
“Everything would then get seriously impeded: From communication among scientists to research, into the evolution of venom, venom delivery systems etc., from understanding the tempo and mode of the evolution of a big chunk of the global snake diversity to popular scientific work on such group. Until now, this has exactly been the case with elapoid snakes—they are a textbook example of ‘ancient, rapid radiation’ and as such, a tough nut to crack.”
The researchers sampled 37 genera from all eight major elapid subclades: Atractaspididae [including representatives of Aparallactinae and Atractaspidinae], Cyclocoridae/Cyclocorinae, Elapidae, Lamprophiidae, Prosymnidae/Prosymninae, Psammophiidae/Psammophiinae, Pseudaspidae/Pseudaspinae and Pseudoxyrhophiidae/Pseudoxyrhophiinae. The also examined one clade from the genus Micrelaps.
They looked at 45 individual species from the genus Elapoidea. In total, the researchers built a dataset of about 4,600 genes from the species examined. From that data, the researchers discovered a new family of snakes within the Elapoidea superfamily. These snakes evolved in the early Cenozoic era about 50 to 45 million years ago.
The researchers concluded that some of the snakes are from the most venomous in the world, including snakes of the cobra family and mamba families. Other snakes in the family include non-venomous and peculiar snakes such as the African shovel nose snakes.
The complete paper, “Ultraconserved elements-based phylogenomic systematics of the snake superfamily Elapoidea, with the description of a new Afro-Asian family,” can be sad on the ScienceDirect website.