Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 87–95 | Cite as

Molecules and morphology suggest cryptic species diversity and an overall complex taxonomy of fish scale geckos, genus Geckolepis

  • Inga Lemme
  • Martina Erbacher
  • Nathalie Kaffenberger
  • Miguel Vences
  • Jörn Köhler
Original Article

Abstract

The current classification of the Malagasy-Comoroan geckos of the genus Geckolepis recognizes three valid species and is based on morphological differences only. Species allocation of individuals is difficult, mainly because of the insufficiently known degree of variation and the frequent partial loss of the integument in preserved specimens. Here we study Geckolepis specimens from almost their entire known range. We combine molecular and morphological data to estimate species richness in the genus, and to assess the taxonomic validity of the morphological differences proposed. Analyses of mitochondrial (12S, ND4) and nuclear (RAG1, CMOS) gene sequences support three major clades in addition to the morphologically distinct G. polylepis (included for 12S only), and the presence of various divergent lineages within these clades, some occurring in sympatry. Among lineages, the external morphology seems to be comparatively conservative, and differences are faint in many cases. For each major lineage, we summarize the most diagnostic morphological characters that distinguish it from other lineages. The combined molecular and morphological data strongly indicate the presence of highly divergent lineages, three of which are tentatively referred to the names Geckolepis maculata, G. polylepis and G. typica, whereas three other major lineages are considered Confirmed Candidate Species. Among the remaining lineages, differentiation is shallower, and these may qualify for Deep Conspecific Lineages. In conclusion, our analysis provides evidence for an underestimation of species richness in the genus and a complex evolutionary history, not reflected by current Geckolepis species-level taxonomy.

Keywords

Squamata Gekkonidae Geckolepis Madagascar Molecular genetics Morphology Systematics Species diversity 

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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inga Lemme
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martina Erbacher
    • 4
  • Nathalie Kaffenberger
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Miguel Vences
    • 1
  • Jörn Köhler
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Evolutionary Biology, Zoological InstituteTechnical University of BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany
  2. 2.Alfred Wegener InstituteBremerhavenGermany
  3. 3.Senckenberg Natural History CollectionsDresdenGermany
  4. 4.Hessisches Landesmuseum DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany

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