Historical Biogeography of the Terrestrial Reptiles of Japan: A Comparative Analysis of Geographic Ranges and Molecular Phylogenies

Part of the Diversity and Commonality in Animals book series (DCA)


The geographic ranges and divergence times of Japanese terrestrial reptiles and their close relatives were compared on the basis of recent taxonomic and molecular systematic studies. The comparison of geographic ranges suggested that the Japanese reptile fauna consists of three major biogeographic elements, those of the Southern Ryukyus, the Central Ryukyus, and the Japan Mainland, encompassing taxa endemic to each of these areas. In addition, some interchanges with southern China–Taiwan, Korea–northeastern China–far eastern Russia, and the Pacific islands may also have contributed to the Japanese reptile fauna. The comparison of geographic ranges of related taxa and their divergence times suggested that most of the Southern Ryukyu element was formed by isolation from the fauna of Taiwan and southern China during the Pliocene; the Central Ryukyu element was mostly formed by isolation from the faunas of Taiwan, China, and the Japan Mainland during the late Miocene, in addition to some quite old relict taxa dating back to the Eocene; and the Japan Mainland element was initially formed by isolation from the continental fauna during the middle Miocene, followed by secondary interchange in the Pliocene and Pleistocene.


Reptiles Biogeography Japan Ryukyus Divergence time Molecular phylogeny 



I express my gratitude to Tsutomu Hikida, Mamoru Toda, and many other colleagues associated with the Laboratory of Systematic Zoology, Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science of Kyoto University, for intensive discussions and providing literature. I also thank T. Hikida, M. Motokawa, and anonymous reviewers for critical reading and valuable comments. This study was partially supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 24770080.


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© Springer Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Graduate School of ScienceKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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