Project 1260: L. Machado, J. Šmíd, T. Mazuch, R. Sindaco, A. S. Al Shukaili, S. Carranza. 2019. Systematics of the Saharo‐Arabian clade of the Palearctic naked‐toed geckos with the description of a new species of Tropiocolotes endemic to Oman. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 57 (1):159-178.
Specimen: Tropiocolotes confusus (NMP6V:75045)
View: lateral


Geckos are one of the most species-rich, abundant, and widely distributed of all Squamata lineages and present several characteristics that have made them favorite model organisms for biogeographical, ecological, physiological, and evolutionary studies. One of the key aspects of any comparative study is to have a robust, comprehensive phylogeny, and an updated taxonomy. Recently, the Infraorder Gekkota has been the subject of several phylogenetic analyses and taxonomic revisions at different levels. Despite all these phylogenetic and taxonomic advances, there are still some groups whose systematics and taxonomy remain highly problematic. Maybe one of the most poorly resolved groups in spite of decades of intensive research by many herpetologists are the so-called Palearctic naked-toed geckos of the family Gekkonidae. This group of nocturnal geckos distributed from Mauritania across North Africa, Arabia, southwestern and central Asia to northern India, western China and southern Mongolia is characterized by the synapomorphy of lack of adhesive subdigital pads. Within the Palearctic naked-toed geckos, the Saharo-Arabian clade comprised by the genera Pseudoceramodactylus, Stenodactylus, and Tropiocolotes is the clade with the largest distribution range. At the same time, it is one of the problematic groups, presenting poorly supported phylogenetic relationships, with the genus Tropiocolotes being recovered non-monophyletic in all analyses despite its morphological uniformity. To reassess the phylogeny of the Palearctic naked-toed geckos with a special interest in the systematics of Tropiocolotes, we assembled a dataset comprising 298 gecko specimens from 283 different species (including all Tropiocolotes species but one) belonging to 122 of a total of 124 described gecko genera. This dataset included the nuclear c-mos, ACM4, RAG1, RAG2, and PDC and the mitochondrial ND2 gene. To further investigate the relationships within Tropiocolotes and to revise the systematics of the south Arabian endemic species Tropiocolotes scorteccii, we used an integrative approach including information from the nuclear MC1R and c-mos, the mitochondrial 12S, 16S, cytb genes, and morphological data from nine of the 10 described Tropiocolotes species. The phylogenetic analyses of the Gekkota dataset recovered a similar topology for the Palearctic naked-toed geckos to previous studies, but in this case, Tropiocolotes was recovered monophyletic in all analyses, with high support in two of them. The results of the analyses of three datasets specifically assembled to test the effect of both gene sampling and taxon sampling in the monophyly of Tropiocolotes, and the internal relationships of the Palearctic naked-toed geckos clearly showed that both the number and kind of characters (nuclear or mitochondrial data) and the number of taxa played a fundamental role in recovering the correct phylogenetic relationships. The phylogenetic analyses within Tropiocolotes suggested the existence of high levels of undescribed diversity in the south Arabian T. scorteccii, including a new genetically and morphologically distinct species endemic to Oman (Tropiocolotes confusus sp. nov.). Our study using a large dataset, including several loci and a dense taxon sampling within Gekkota and especially within Tropiocolotes, has proved a valuable strategy to address the monophyly of Tropiocolotes and the relationships within the Saharo-Arabian Palearctic naked-toed geckos. The integrative systematic approach including several samples of south Arabian T. scorteccii based on many years of fieldwork has, once more, uncovered a new species endemic to this region. This highlights the importance of this area of Arabia as a reservoir of reptile endemicity and biodiversity, which is likely linked to the high degree of habitat heterogeneity and the effect of the monsoons. Obviously, based on this and previously published evidence, south Arabia represents an area with still high levels of undiscovered diversity.

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Article DOI: 10.1111/jzs.12226

Project DOI: 10.7934/P1260,
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    Authors' Institutions

    • Charles University in Prague

    • Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF)

    • National Museum in Prague

    • Universidade do Porto (CIBIO included)

    • Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Carmagnola, Italy


    member name taxa specimens media
    Salvador Carranza
    Project Administrator
    Luis Machado
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