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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2002 May;23(2):244-56.

Relationships and evolution of the North African geckos, Geckonia and Tarentola (Reptilia: Gekkonidae), based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK.


Mitochondrial (cytochrome b and 12S rRNA) and nuclear (c-mos) genes, analyzed by a variety of methods, indicate that the distinctive northwest African gecko Geckonia chazaliae is a member of the Tarentola clade, being most closely related to the species of the western Canary and Cape Verde islands. Relationships in Tarentola as a whole are as follows: (T. americana ((T. mauritanica, T. angustimentalis) ((T. deserti, T. boehmei) ((T. b. boettgeri-South (T. b. boettgeri-North (T. b. bischoffi, T. b. hierrensis))) ((T. annularis, T. ephippiata) (Geckonia, T. delalandii, T. gomerensis, Cape Verde species)))))); nearly all nodes have high bootstrap support. Results confirm that T. americana of Cuba and the Bahamas separated at the most basal dichotomy of the phylogeny and give no positive support for the monophyly of the subgenera Tarentola s. str. and Makariogecko. The latter includes Geckonia and the subgenus Sahelogecko. Continental Tarentola appear to have invaded the Sahara desert from its northern edge. They have also colonized groups of Atlantic islands five times: a single invasion of the West Indies and three of the Canary islands, one of which then went on to invade the Cape Verde archipelago. The phylogeny corroborates anatomical evidence that the ground-dwelling Geckonia had a climbing ancestry, something that is paralleled in some southern African terrestrial gekkonids related to Pachydactylus. Distinctive derived features of Geckonia occur in other gekkonids that are ground dwelling in arid habitats and may be functionally related to this environment. The evolution of such features indicates that, although Tarentola is generally very uniform and may have been so for over 10 million years, this is not due to any overwhelming phylogenetic constraint. G. chazaliae should be included in Tarentola, as Tarentola chazaliae.

2002 Elsevier Science (USA).

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