The Phelsuma lineata-group unraffled?

A recently published article in the “Organisms Diversity & Evolution” unravels the complicated Phelsuma lineata-group by mtDNA sampling and analysis.

Day geckos of the Phelsuma lineata-group are widespread in Madagascar and have been historically split into numerous species and subspecies based almost exclusively on differences in coloration and body size. We apply phylogenetic and phylogeographic methods to examine the biogeography and taxonomy of these lizards, including explicit tests of various biogeographic predictions and based on a molecular data set covering much of the distribution ranges of all species and subspecies of P. lineata, P. dorsivittata, P. comorensis, P. hoeschi, P. kely, and P. pusilla in Madagascar (and the Comoros archipelago for P. comorensis).

Sequences of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA and the nuclear RAG-1 gene fragment were determined from 376 samples, and a multigene mtDNA phylogeny of the species group was constructed for the main phylogroups identified in the 16S haplotype network. We used the 16S sequences to estimate the geographic location of the ancestor of each major mtDNA clade and to infer their demographic history using a variety of statistical tools. Our phylogeny separates the taxa analyzed into two well-supported major subclades mainly occurring in the north respectively east of the island.

Mismatch distribution of samples together with rejection of neutrality, the results of Bayesian Skyline Plots analysis, and a star-like network suggests a recent demographic expansion for the P. l. lineata lineage into the eastern lowlands, while the highland (P. l. elanthana) and northern clades (P. dorsivittata and P. l. punctulata) show signatures of rather stable populations.

Phelsuma dorsivittata
Phelsuma dorsivittata from the Ampasindava peninsula © Emmanuel Van Heygen

A major genetic discontinuity observed coincided with a northern lowland stretch that separates mid-altitude rainforests in the north from those in the center and south. Our analysis points to numerous unsolved taxonomic problems in this group of geckos, especially in the small-sized taxa (P. hoeschi, P. kely, P. pusilla), and provides a basis for a future comprehensive taxonomic revision, which will require integrative analysis of molecular, morphological and chromatic data as well as careful examination of type specimens.

Gehring, P. S., F. Glaw, M. Gehara, F. M. Ratsoavina & M. Vences (2013): Northern origin and diversification in central lowlands? - Complex phylogeography and taxonomy of widespread day geckos (Phelsuma) from Madagascar. – Organisms, Diversity and Evolution, published online.

Molecular analysis of the genus Phelsuma brings more clarity in evolutionary relationships

A new study by Rocha et al. brings some more clarity in Phelsuma evolutionary relationships. Despite extensive work on Phelsuma taxonomy, ecology, biogeography and ethology, the relationships between species is not fully understood. Many species and subspecies descriptions are based only on variations in colour. Polymorphism is common in the genus, so some taxa are non-valid and only based on geographical colour morphs.


Trade Restrictions on Phelsuma comorensis and Phelsuma v-nigra from the Comoros

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service received notice from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat that the Comoros failed to satisfy the CITES Parties that the required non-detriment findings are being made when issuing permits for certain CITES-listed species. This failure poses a serious threat to populations of these species. The CITES Secretariat’s notice recommends that all CITES countries refuse import of two species of day geckos (Phelsuma v-nigra and Phelsuma comorensis) from Comoros. Read More...

New phelsuma species and three subspecies of Phelsuma madagascariensis elevated to full species status

Raxworthy et al. (2007) describe a new species, Phelsuma ravenala, similar to Phelsuma dubia but from eastern Madagascar,and elevate three subspecies of Phelsuma madagascariensis to full species status. Phelsuma madagascariensis boehmei is considered a synonym of Phelsuma madagascariensis.

"Phelsuma legend" Eddie Postma missing in Ecuador

The Dutch and Ecuadorian police is searching for the 44 year old Eddie Postma. He has been missing for a month and disappeared from his hotel on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Postma, according to his wife, was in that country for a photo session of the Ecuadorian herpetofauna. He is the owner of “Sauria” a shop with annex breeding facility of mainly the genus Phelsuma.  Postma just arrived in Ecuador and left his Hotel by taxi, leaving all his belongings. Nothing was heard from him afterwards but according to the authorities the Dutchman stayed in a part which is considered safe and they exclude crime. Search dogs were sent from the Netherlands to facilitate the search.