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A Taxonomic Hide and Seek: Phylogenetic and Phylogeographic Relationships in the Southeast Asian Box Turtle, Cuora amboinensis (Riche in Daudin, 1801)

Torsten Blanck, Daniel Gaillard, Tomáš Protiva, Madeleine Wheatley, Haitao Shi, Lin Liu, Parimal Chandra Ray, Ben Anders


Cuora amboinensis is considered to be the most wide-ranging member of its genus and has one of the widest distributions of all geoemydid turtle species. The range of Cuora amboinensis spans major biogeographic barriers and encompasses diverse habitats. The genetics (nuDNA and mtDNA) and morphometry of 288 Cuora amboinensis sensu lato (s.l.) specimens from across its range were analyzed, and we identified five divergent species-level clades and two subspecies-level clades. One of the two identified potential subspecies lacked reliable locality data, requiring further field research before taxonomic steps can be undertaken. We designate a neotype for Cuora amboinensis sensu stricto and elevate both Cuora amboinensis couro and Cuora amboinensis lineata to species-level taxa. In addition, we describe two new species and one new subspecies from the «Cuora amboinensis» complex. The wide distribution of Cuora amboinensis s.l. is problematic because it is indigenous to many Pacific and Indian Ocean islands. We sought to clarify plausible dispersal hypotheses across islands using phylogeographic analyses.


Testudines; Geoemydidae; Cuora; taxonomy; phylogeography; phylogenetics; conservation; species description; neotype; species complex; cryptic species

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