Zoo Department Masters Research Presentation

On Thursday the 1st of March I presented my masters research to the department in the form of a spoken presentation in the Zoology Department tea room. Although I still have a fare way to go before I complete my thesis, the talk was an awesome opportunity for me to show-off what I have done thus far. The abstract for the talk is printed below.

Why ‘splitters’ are winners: a snakes tale

Molecular biology is quickly becoming a integral part of many modern biological science studies because of its increased applications. Genetic analysis renders increased clarity to taxonomic studies, can uncover cryptic speciation, and informs scientists about the hidden mysteries of evolution. Although well utilised across most fields of zoological science, molecular biology has become increasingly more prevalent in the herpetological world, as of late.

The Psammophylax genus is a widespread south-east African genus with six currently described species, and multiple sub-species. Although far-ranging in Africa, the individuals of this genus show little morphological variation, with the most prominent distinguishing characteristics being colouration and patterning. Species variation may be cryptic and thus the use of genetic methods may unearth diversity, previously missed by morphologically-orientated taxonomy. Members of Psammophylax are also understudied from a molecular taxonomy perspective, making them the ideal subject of a genetically-orientated systematic research project.

This masters thesis, which focusses on genetic structuring within Psammophylax, is split into three sections. The first section focusses on the sub-family Psammophinae and the placement of Psammophylax within it. The second section focusses on the Psammophylax genus and the third section is a phylogeographic study of Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatus. Although the genus has been looked at in other herpetological literature, this research thesis represents the most complete and current systematic study of the genus to date.

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