Phylogeny and cryptic diversity in geckos (Phyllopezus; Phyllodactylidae; Gekkota) from South America's open biomes

Tony Gamble, Guarino R. Colli, Miguel T. Rodrigues, Fernanda P. Werneck, Andrew M. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The gecko genus Phyllopezus occurs across South America's open biomes: Cerrado, Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests (SDTF, including Caatinga), and Chaco. We generated a multi-gene dataset and estimated phylogenetic relationships among described Phyllopezus taxa and related species. We included exemplars from both described Phyllopezus pollicaris subspecies, P. p. pollicaris and P. p. przewalskii. Phylogenies from the concatenated data as well as species trees constructed from individual gene trees were largely congruent. All phylogeny reconstruction methods showed Bogertia lutzae as the sister species of Phyllopezus maranjonensis, rendering Phyllopezus paraphyletic. We synonymized the monotypic genus Bogertia with Phyllopezus to maintain a taxonomy that is isomorphic with phylogenetic history. We recovered multiple, deeply divergent, cryptic lineages within P. pollicaris. These cryptic lineages possessed mtDNA distances equivalent to distances among other gekkotan sister taxa. Described P. pollicaris subspecies are not reciprocally monophyletic and current subspecific taxonomy does not accurately reflect evolutionary relationships among cryptic lineages. We highlight the conservation significance of these results in light of the ongoing habitat loss in South America's open biomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-953
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Many thanks to A. Bauer for helpful comments on taxonomy. W. Böhme (ZFMK), U. Fritz and A. Hundsdörfer (MTD), R. Murphy (ROM) , I. de la Riva (MNCN) and H. Zaher (MZUSP) kindly provided tissues from material in their care. Support for this research was provided by NSF (DEB 0515909 to A. Bauer and T. Jackman); Department of Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology to AMS; FAPESP and CNPq to MTR; CAPES, CNPq and FAPDF to GRC; and Dayton/Wilkie Fund, Bell Museum of Natural History to TG. FPW is supported by grants from CAPES/Fulbright and Department of Biology, BYU. MTR thanks his students D. Pavan, F.F. Curcio, G. Skuk, H. Rodrigues, H. Zaher, J. Cassimiro, J.M. Martins, and R. Moraes for help in field.


  • Biodiversity
  • Bogertia
  • Brazil
  • Caatinga
  • Cerrado
  • Chaco
  • Conservation
  • Cryptic species
  • Lizard
  • Phyllopezus
  • Reptile
  • Species tree
  • Taxonomy


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