The phylogenomic and biogeographic history of the gartersnakes, watersnakes, and allies (Natricidae: Thamnophiini)

Leroy P. Nuñez, Levi N. Gray, David W. Weisrock, Frank T. Burbrink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


North American Thamnophiini (gartersnakes, watersnakes, brownsnakes, and swampsnakes) are an ecologically and phenotypically diverse temperate clade of snakes representing 61 species across 10 genera. In this study, we estimate phylogenetic trees using ∼3,700 ultraconserved elements (UCEs) for 76 specimens representing 75% of all Thamnophiini species. We infer phylogenies using multispecies coalescent methods and time calibrate them using the fossil record. We also conducted ancestral area estimation to identify how major biogeographic boundaries in North America affect broadscale diversification in the group. While most nodes exhibited strong statistical support, analysis of concordant data across gene trees reveals substantial heterogeneity. Ancestral area estimation demonstrated that the genus Thamnophis was the only taxon in this subfamily to cross the Western Continental Divide, even as other taxa dispersed southward toward the tropics. Additionally, levels of gene tree discordance are overall higher in transition zones between bioregions, including the Rocky Mountains. Therefore, the Western Continental Divide may be a significant transition zone structuring the diversification of Thamnophiini during the Neogene and Pleistocene. Here we show that despite high levels of discordance across gene trees, we were able to infer a highly resolved and well-supported phylogeny for Thamnophiini, which allows us to understand broadscale patterns of diversity and biogeography.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107844
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Biogeography
  • Gene tree discordance
  • Natricidae
  • North American Herpetology
  • Phylogenomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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