Vol. 61, 2022
Biogeographic Inferences on the
Evolutionary History of the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah, Cantor 1836)
Fèlix Amat1,*,§ and Daniel
d'Herpetologia, Museu de Granollers-Ciències Naturals, C/ Palaudàries,
102 08402 Granollers, Catalonia, Spain. *Correspondence: E-mail:
2GRECO, Institut de Ecologia Aquàtica, Facultat de
Ciències, Campus Montillivi s/n, 17071, Girona, Spain. E-mail:
§FA and DE contributed
equally to this work.
Received 23 October 2021 / Accepted 13 April 2022
Communicated by Jina-Nan Liu
King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is a snake
widely distributed through southeastern tropical Asia, but in two
separate subpopulations: one located in the Western Ghats (western
Indian Peninsula) and the other much more extensive, ranging between
the southern slopes of the Himalayas, Assam, Indochina to southeastern
China. Similarly, it also appears in numerous tropical archipelagos
such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Andaman Islands, but
surprisingly it is absent from other large islands like Sri Lanka and
Taiwan. In this study, we evaluated how climate could be shaping the
distribution of this snake and estimated the future distribution of the
species utilizing ecological niche modelling. To evaluate the effect of
paleoclimatic conditions on the genetic structure of this species we
performed Bayesian phylogenetic analysis under a molecular clock using
mitochondrial DNA. Our analyses indicated that the current distribution
of O. hannah is strongly
influenced by the availability of humid climate conditions. King cobras
have a long evolutionary history reflected in the appearance of four
main mitochondrial lineages before the Pliocene (the Western Ghats,
southeastern mainland Asia, Luzon, and Indonesia), congruently with
paleoclimatic models that indicated the availability of suitable
conditions for this species in these refugia during the glacial cycles.
Climate history could explain the absence of O. hannah in Sri Lanka and Taiwan
due to the absence of suitable climatic corridors when these islands
were connected to the mainland (20,000 years ago). Future projections
(2050‒2070) did not suggest significant range shifts in the region,
even considering the worst global warming scenarios.
Key words: Paleobiogeography, Ophiophagus hannah, Niche
modelling, Climate change, Evolutionary history.
Citation:Amat F, Escoriza D. 2022.
Biogeographic inferences on the evolutionary history of the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah, Cantor 1836)
species complex. Zool Stud 61:28. doi:10.6620/ZS.2022.61-28.
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