Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 143–150 | Cite as

Phylogeography of the Ibero-Maghrebian red-eyed grass snake (Natrix astreptophora)

  • Carolin Kindler
  • Philip de Pous
  • Salvador Carranza
  • Menad Beddek
  • Philippe Geniez
  • Uwe FritzEmail author
Original Article


We examined phylogeographic differentiation of the red-eyed grass snake (Natrix astreptophora) using 1984 bp of mtDNA and 13 microsatellite loci from specimens collected across its distribution range in southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa. Based on phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA, European N. astreptophora constituted the sister clade to a weakly supported North African clade comprised of two deeply divergent and well-supported clades, one corresponding to Moroccan snakes and the other to snakes from Algeria and Tunisia. This tripartite differentiation was confirmed by analyses of microsatellite loci. According to a fossil-calibrated molecular clock, European and North African N. astreptophora diverged 5.44 million years ago (mya), and the two Maghrebian clades split 4.64 mya. These dates suggest that the radiation of the three clades was initiated by the environmental changes related to the Messinian Salinity Crisis and the reflooding of the Mediterranean Basin. The differentiation of N. astreptophora, with distinct clades in the Iberian Peninsula and in the western and eastern Maghreb, corresponds to a general phylogeographic paradigm and resembles the differentiation found in another co-distributed Natrix species, the viperine snake (N. maura). Despite both species being good swimmers, the Strait of Gibraltar constitutes a significant biogeographic barrier for them. The discovery that North Africa harbours two endemic lineages of N. astreptophora necessitates more conservation efforts for these imperilled snakes.


Biogeography North Africa Messinian Salinity Crisis Reptile Southwest Europe 



Markus Auer, José Carlos Brito, Pierre-André Crochet, Boualem Dellaoui, Marco Favelli, Daniel Jablonski, Jérôme Maran, Olivier Peyre, and Ulrich Scheidt donated samples. Philippe Evrard provided a photo of a red-eyed grass snake from Spain. Cäcilia Spitzweg helped with laboratory work.

Funding information

This study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG; FR 1435/11-2). Menad Beddek’s PhD research was supported by a grant from ANRT/Naturalia Environnement CIFRE (no. 2013/0145); field work in Algeria was funded by Naturalia Environnement. Salvador Carranza’s work was funded by CGL2015-70390-P from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Spain (cofunded by FEDER).

Supplementary material

13127_2017_354_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.2 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1.24 mb).


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum of Zoology (Museum für Tierkunde)DresdenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra)BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Departament de Ciència AnimalUniversitat de LleidaLleidaSpain
  4. 4.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive – UMR 5175, CNRSMontpellier Cedex 5France
  5. 5.Naturalia EnvironnementBaillarguesFrance
  6. 6.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive – UMR 5175, Ecole Pratique des Hautes EtudesPSL Research UniversityMontpellier Cedex 5France

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