Phylogenetic analysis of the king cobra, Ophiophagus hannah in Thailand based on mitochondrial DNA sequences

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Background: Snakes possess adaptive characteristics of morphology that may result in incorrect reconstruction of phylogeny. Molecular approaches have become the major source of new information for advancing our understanding of evolutionary, genetic relationships, and species identification.

Objective: We studied DNA sequences of Ophiophagus hannah in different parts of Thailand and compared them with those of O. hannah from other countries.

Materials and Methods: We studied the mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2) and control region (CR) sequences of 12 individuals O. hannah from different localities across Thailand. Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequences were compared to the published sequences of O. hannah deposited in NCBI GenBank database from other countries.

Results: O. hannah could be categorized into 2 Clades, 5 haplotypes, and 4 localities based on 43 different nucleotide positions from the 736 bp of ND2 and 673 bp of CR. Clade A was haplotype A from southern Thailand. Clade B consisted of haplotypes B, C, D, and E. Haplotype B and C came from northern Thailand. Haplotype D came from western Thailand, while haplotype E was O. hannah from central Thailand. The DNA sequences of Clade B were similar to the sequences of O. hannah in Myanmar and southern China that are already deposited in NCBI GenBank database.

Conclusion: We found a different genotype of O. hannah from southern Thailand and suggest that this may be a new species of O. hannah.

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