Phylogeny and biogeography of Arabian populations of the Persian Horned Viper <i>Pseudocerastes persicus</i> (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854)

<p>The Persian Horned Viper (<i>Pseudocerastes persicus</i>) is distributed from northeast Iraq through the Iranian Plateau to western Pakistan with isolated populations in the Hajar Mountains of south-eastern Arabia. Like the other members of the genus <i>Pseudocerastes</i>, <i>P. persicus</i> is a sit-and-wait ambush feeder with low vagility, a characteristic that often results in high levels of population differentiation. In order to clarify the level of genetic variability, phylogenetic relationships, and biogeography of the Arabian populations of <i>P. persicus</i> we sequenced 597 base pairs of the mitochondrial cytochrome <i>b</i> of four individuals from the Hajar Mountains in south-eastern Arabia and inferred their phylogenetic relationships including 10 samples of <i>P. persicus</i> from Iran and Pakistan, four <i>P. urarachnoides</i> and one <i>P. fieldi</i> downloaded from GenBank. The four Arabian samples are genetically very similar in the gene fragment analysed and are phylogenetically very closely related to populations of <i>P. persicus</i> from coastal south Iran. Biogeographically, it appears that colonisation of the Hajar Mountains by <i>P. persicus</i> took place from Iran very recently, most probably during the last glaciation, when most of the Persian Gulf was above sea level and did not represent a barrier for dispersal.</p>