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Phylogenetic relationships and divergence dates of softshell turtles (Testudines: Trionychidae) inferred from complete mitochondrial genomes

Li, H., Liu, J., Xiong, L., Zhang, H., Zhou, H., Yin, H., Jing, W., Li, J., Shi, Q., Wang, Y., Liu, J., Nie, L.
Journal of evolutionary biology 2017 v.30 no.5 pp. 1011-1023
Amyda, Apalone, Carettochelyidae, Dogania subplana, Eocene epoch, Lissemys punctata, Nilssonia, Oligocene epoch, Palea, Pelodiscus, Rafetus, Trionyx, computer software, fossils, mitochondrial genome, monophyly, phylogeography, taxonomy, turtles, Antarctica, Asia
The softshell turtles (Trionychidae) are one of the most widely distributed reptile groups in the world, and fossils have been found on all continents except Antarctica. The phylogenetic relationships among members of this group have been previously studied; however, disagreements regarding its taxonomy, its phylogeography and divergence times are still poorly understood as well. Here, we present a comprehensive mitogenomic study of softshell turtles. We sequenced the complete mitochondrial genomes of 10 softshell turtles, in addition to the GenBank sequence of Dogania subplana, Lissemys punctata, Trionyx triunguis, which cover all extant genera within Trionychidae except for Cyclanorbis and Cycloderma. These data were combined with other mitogenomes of turtles for phylogenetic analyses. Divergence time calibration and ancestral reconstruction were calculated using BEAST and RASP software, respectively. Our phylogenetic analyses indicate that Trionychidae is the sister taxon of Carettochelyidae, and support the monophyly of Trionychinae and Cyclanorbinae, which is consistent with morphological data and molecular analysis. Our phylogenetic analyses have established a sister taxon relationship between the Asian Rafetus and the Asian Palea + Pelodiscus + Dogania + Nilssonia + Amyda, whereas a previous study grouped the Asian Rafetus with the American Apalone. The results of divergence time estimates and area ancestral reconstruction show that extant Trionychidae originated in Asia at around 108 million years ago (MA), and radiations mainly occurred during two warm periods, namely Late Cretaceous–Early Eocene and Oligocene. By combining the estimated divergence time and the reconstructed ancestral area of softshell turtles, we determined that the dispersal of softshell turtles out of Asia may have taken three routes. Furthermore, the times of dispersal seem to be in agreement with the time of the India–Asia collision and opening of the Bering Strait, which provide evidence for the accuracy of our estimation of divergence time. Overall, the mitogenomes of this group were used to explore the origin and dispersal route of Trionychidae and have provided new insights on the evolution of this group.