Takydromus Daudin is a group of Lacertidae lizards with slender bodies and long tails. Half of the Takydromus spp. are endemic to islands of eastern Asia aligned along the Pacific margin of the East Asian continent. This feature offers a good opportunity to study the effects of glaciations and land connections on the speciation of East Asian fauna. We reconstructed the molecular phylogeny of Takydromus species via the mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene. Phylogenetic analyses using maximum-parsimony, neighbor-joining, and maximum-likelihood options do not support a two-subgenera scheme of Takydromus and Platyplacopus proposed earlier. In contrast, the phylogeny of Takydromus species on islands fits the sequential separation of island groups influenced by changes in sea level. The hypothesis in our prediction supports the process of vicariant speciation and multicolonization of grass lizards on eastern Asian islands. At least two obvious colonization events were followed by vicariance events. Because the molecular clock of the 12 rRNA gene was not rejected in our model test, it is possible to estimate times of speciation events. As the most isolated and basal species compared to other temperate and subtropical species of Takydromus, the separation period of T. smaragdinus in the central Ryukyus is the crucial point in estimating the evolutionary rate. Quaternary-origin or Tertiary-origin models are proposed and discussed.
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