Based on sequence variation in 806 bp of the mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene, phylogenetic relationships were inferred for 14 species of Trimeresurus (sensu lato) including all East Asian members. Samples analyzed also included representatives of all assemblages of species that are frequently treated as separate genera except for T. mangshanensis, a type species of the recently described monotypic genus Ermia. Results support some previous accounts chiefly from morphological studies, such as distinct divergence of T. wagleri from the remainder, and monophyly of T. mucrosquamatus, T. flavoviridis, T. jerdonii, T. elegans and T. tokarensis. On the other hand, our results negated a putative close affinity of T. monticola and T. okinavensis, and indicated the sister relationship of the latter with T. gracilis. Phylogenetic relationships revealed in this study suggested that the genus Trimeresurus dispersed into the Ryukyu region at least three times, and that T. flavoviridis and T. tokarensis from the central Ryukyus constitute a relict clade.
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