Phylogenetic relationships and systematics of the Amazonian poison frog genus Ameerega using ultraconserved genomic elements


The Amazonian poison frog genus Ameerega is one of the largest yet most understudied of the brightly colored genera in the anuran family Dendrobatidae, with 30 described species ranging throughout tropical South America. Phylogenetic analyses of Ameerega are highly discordant, lacking consistency due to variation in data types and methods, and often with limited coverage of species diversity in the genus. Here, we present a comprehensive phylogenomic reconstruction of Ameerega, utilizing state-of-the-art sequence capture techniques and phylogenetic methods. We sequenced thousands of ultraconserved elements from over 100 tissue samples, representing almost every described Ameerega species, as well as undescribed cryptic diversity. We generated topologies using maximum likelihood and coalescent methods and compared the use of maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods for estimating divergence times. Our phylogenetic inference diverged strongly from those of previous studies, and we recommend steps to bring Ameerega taxonomy in line with the new phylogeny. We place several species in a phylogeny for the first time, as well as provide evidence for six potential candidate species. We estimate that Ameerega experienced a rapid radiation approximately 7–11 million years ago and that the ancestor of all Ameerega was likely an aposematic, montane species. This study underscores the utility of phylogenomic data in improving our understanding of the phylogeny of understudied clades and making novel inferences about their evolution.

Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (142, 106638)