Four New World genera of dwarf boas (Exiliboa, Trachyboa, Tropidophis, and Ungaliophis) have been placed by many systematists in a single group (traditionally called Tropidophiidae). However, the monophyly of this group has been questioned in several studies. Moreover, the overall relationships among basal snake lineages, including the placement of the dwarf boas, are poorly understood. We obtained mtDNA sequence data for 12S, 16S, and intervening tRNA-val genes from 23 species of snakes representing most major snake lineages, including all four genera of New World dwarf boas. We then examined the phylogenetic position of these species by estimating the phylogeny of the basal snakes. Our phylogenetic analysis suggests that New World dwarf boas are not monophyletic. Instead, we find Exiliboa and Ungaliophis to be most closely related to sand boas (Erycinae), boas (Boinae), and advanced snakes (Caenophidea), whereas Tropidophis and Trachyboa form an independent clade that separated relatively early in snake radiation. Our estimate of snake phylogeny differs significantly in other ways from some previous estimates of snake phylogeny. For instance, pythons do not cluster with boas and sand boas, but instead show a strong relationship with Loxocemus and Xenopeltis. Additionally, uropeltids cluster strongly with Cylindrophis, and together are embedded in what has previously been considered the macrostomatan radiation. These relationships are supported by both bootstrapping (parametric and nonparametric approaches) and Bayesian analysis, although Bayesian support values are consistently higher than those obtained from nonparametric bootstrapping. Simulations show that Bayesian support values represent much better estimates of phylogenetic accuracy than do nonparametric bootstrap support values, at least under the conditions of our study.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science (USA)