The inference of species boundaries and phylogenetic relationships are fundamental for evolutionary, ecological, and conservation studies. The resolution of species boundaries and the inference of phylogenetic relationships among species are required to define the units of analysis and to find the most closely related units for evaluating alternative models of speciation. I highlight lizards as model organisms for ecological and evolutionary studies, emphasizing their contributions to advances in understanding linkages between phylogeography and speciation. In this dissertation, I focus on the phylogenetic relationships of the lizards in the Liolaemus darwinii group, and the species boundaries of a nested clade within the group, the L. darwinii complex, because of several advantages that make these taxa ideal for phylogeographic studies of speciation. I infer a phylogeny for the L. darwinii group based on DNA sequences of 20 loci (19 nuclear and 1 mitochondrial) using species trees methods that take into account the incongruence among gene trees. I found the minimum number of loci, number of sequences per species, and number of base pairs per locus that should be included in an analysis for an accurate and precise estimate of the species tree. The species tree based on all available data support a clade of closely related species (L. darwinii, L. grosseorum, and L. laurenti) known as the L. darwinii complex. A new method for species delimitation using Approximate Bayesian Computation is introduced and is shown to accurately delimit species given that limited or no gene flow has occurred after divergence and despite biased estimates of demographic parameters. ABC analyses supported the distinctness of two lineages within L. darwinii under a model of speciation with gene flow. Based on the species tree and the species limits obtained in this dissertation, phylogenetic comparative methods can be carried out to address the morphological and ecological evolution in the L. darwinii group and several sister species can be used for testing the alternative speciation models via correlation analyses of genetic, morphological, and ecological datasets. Future studies should assess the role speciation due to adaptive processes and its association the species' ecological niches and life histories.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Biology



Date Submitted


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species trees, species delimitation, coalescent model, speciation, Liolaemus

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Biology Commons