IBE: DNA reveals new identity for UAE geckos

IBE: DNA reveals new identity for UAE geckos

News from IBE (CSIC-UPF)

Nocturnal geckos in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and Yemen had been thought to belong to a single species, Bunopus spatalurus. But researchers based in Spain, Portugal, the US and the Czech Republic have now demonstrated that they should be classified as two species – and that they do not even belong in the Bunopus genus (the biological classification group one up from species). The findings, published in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, could have important conservation implications. The work involved DNA analysis of geckos captured between 2004 and 2013.

In most cases, scientists collected just a small segment of each animal’s tail, which then grows back, although some specimens were used to analyse the morphology, or appearance and structure, of the gecko. “The specimens for this study were collected on many field trips over several years but most were obtained during a two-month expedition in spring 2013. Specimens are relatively easy to find at night when they are active but never in very large numbers,” said the study’s senior author, Dr Philip de Pous of Barcelona’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology. “The fieldwork in the Hajjar Mountains is always interesting and each day brings exciting finds and challenges.”

Laboratory analysis found the northern and southern gecko populations were significantly different genetically from other Bunopus species. In fact, they were more different from them than other geckos not included in the Bunopus genus. This meant that they should be renamed and put in a separate genus. With the latest study, the separation of the geckos into two species is likely to be significant in environmental terms, because only different species – and not subspecies – are recognised for conservation purposes.

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de Pous P, Machado L, Metallinou M, Červenka J, Kratochvíl L, Paschou N, Mazuch T, Šmíd J, Simó-Riudalbas M, Sanuy D, and Carranza S (2015). Taxonomy and biogeography of Bunopus spatalurus (Reptilia; Gekkonidae) from the Arabian Peninsula. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research