Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A new false gecko: Pseudogekko atiorum

Pseudogekko is a genus of rare gecko species, commonly known as false geckos. All four known species are found in the Philippines. Despite their common name these are real geckos, a group of reptiles comprising more than 1 500 species.

Geckos have a number of unique features that distinguish them from other lizards. They use sounds in social interactions with other geckos. They lack eyelids and a fixed lens which is why they often lick their eyes to keep them clean and moist. However, they are probably best known for their specialized toe pads that enable them to climb smooth and vertical surfaces, and even cross indoor ceilings with ease.

The species name honors the Ati people, an ethnic group believed to be among the first to colonize the central Philippines. 

For the experts: Recent investigations into the species diversity of false geckos (genus Pseudogekko Taylor) have revealed several cryptic species, highlighting the need for a more thorough understanding of diversity within this enigmatic genus of endemic Philippine geckos. Newly available genetic data reveal that two of the four currently recognized species are complexes of multiple deeply divergent evolutionary lineages. In this paper we evaluate species diversity in one of these complexes, P. brevipes Boettger, and describe one additional new species. For nearly a century, P. brevipes has been recognized as a single, “widespread” species with a geographic range spanning two major faunal regions and several island groups. Poor understanding of this species has persisted due to both limited sampling and its apparent rarity. We evaluate both morphological and genetic data to define species limits in P. brevipes, and find character-based evidence to justify the recognition of two unique evolutionary lineages, one of which we describe as a new species (P. atiorum sp. nov.). The species included in this study have allopatric distributions and differ from congeners by numerous diagnostic characters of external morphology, and therefore should be recognized as full species in accordance with lineage-based species concepts. This newly described species increases the total number of species of Pseudogekko to seven.

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