Total-evidence phylogeny and evolutionary morphology of New World pitvipers (Serpentes: Viperidae: Crotalinae)
Crotalines (pitvipers) in the Americas are distributed from southern Canada to southern Argentina, and are represented by 13 genera and 163 species that constitute a monophyletic group. Their phylogenetic relationships have been assessed mostly based on DNA sequences, while morphological data have scarcely been used for phylogenetic inquiry. We present a total-evidence phylogeny of New World pitvipers, the most taxon/character comprehensive phylogeny to date. Our analysis includes all genera, morphological data from external morphology, cranial osteology and hemipenial morphology, and DNA sequences from mitochondrial and nuclear genes. We performed analyses with parsimony as an optimality criterion, using different schemes for character weighting. We evaluated the contribution of the different sources of characters to the phylogeny through analyses of reduced datasets and calculation of weighted homoplasy and retention indexes. We performed a morphological character analysis o identify synapomorphies for the main clades. In terms of biogeography, our results support a single colonization event of the Americas by pitvipers, and a cladogenetic event into a Neotropical clade and a North American/Neotropical clade. The results also shed light on the previously unstable position of some taxa, although they could not sufficiently resolve the position of Bothrops lojanus, which may lead to the paraphyly of either Bothrops or Bothrocophias. The morphological character analyses demonstrated that an important phylogenetic signal is contained in characters related to head scalation, the jaws and the dorsum of the skull, and allowed us to detect morphological convergences in external morphology associated with arboreality.