We assessed the historical biogeography of the Ryukyu five-lined skink, Plestiodon marginatus, and related species (P. stimpsonii and P. elegans). Our specific aims were to reveal the origin, tim- ing, and route of the colonization to three volcanic islands in the northern Tokara Group of the northern Ryukyus: Kuchinoshima, Nakanoshima, and Suwanosejima. We conducted phylogenetic analyses and divergence time estimation using a partial sequence of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene for P. marginatus collected from across its whole range (the northern and central Ryukyus), and for P. stimpsonii (from the Yaeyama Group of the southern Ryukyus) and P. elegans (from Taiwan). Our results suggest three major clades (A, B, and C). Clades A and B consist of P. marginatus, excluding the Kuchinoshima population, and Clade C consisted of the Kuchinoshima population, P. stimpsonii, and P. elegans. These clades are estimated to have diverged during the Late Miocene to the Late Pliocene. Among the three examined northern Tokara populations, the Kuchinoshima population was shown to be a sister group of P. stimpsonii. The two other populations from Nakanoshima and Suwanosejima Islands were closely related to P. marginatus from the northern part of the Okinawa Group and that from Kodakarajima Island in the southern Tokara Group, respectively. These populations are estimated to have diverged from their respective related spe cies in various ages of the Early to Late Pleistocene, suggesting that they colonized the islands by independent overseas dispersals of approximately 50–850 km via the Kuroshio Current. Taxonomic implications for P. marginatus are also discussed.
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