Cryptic and non-cryptic diversity in New Guinea ground snakes of the genus <i>Stegonotus</i> Duméril, Bibron and Duméril, 1854: a description of four new species (Squamata: Colubridae)

<p>The island of New Guinea has been identified as biologically megadiverse but many taxa are still poorly known. This is especially the case for many of the island’s snakes, which by their very nature can be difficult to collect and study. Here we examine the phylogenetic and phylogeographic structure of a poorly studied snake genus, <i>Stegonotus</i>, focusing on the species of New Guinea; until now, <i>Stegonotus</i> has never been examined using modern phylogenetic methods. Using molecular data from 49 individuals representing eight of the ten described species, and including all New Guinea taxa, we estimate a multilocus phylogeny and examine population structure to help identify undescribed taxa. We use morphological data from the corresponding museum vouchered specimens (where available) and also examine additional specimens for taxa not included in the molecular data set to determine morphological differences among putative taxa. We find molecular evidence for four new species of <i>Stegonotus</i>, both morphologically obvious and cryptic, and describe them herein. The recognition of these four species indicates that <i>Stegonotus</i> diversity has been previously underestimated and also suggests that there are likely additional undescribed taxa within the genus. These four taxa increase the number of described species by 40% and further confirm New Guinea as the centre of diversity for the genus.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"></a></p>