The Sprightly Little Sphaerodactyl: Systematics and Biogeography of the Puerto Rican Dwarf Geckos Sphaerodactylus (Gekkota, Sphaerodactylidae)

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Magnolia Press

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Studies of the Caribbean herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) have made significant contributions to our knowledge of evolutionary patterns and processes. A prerequisite for these studies are accurate taxonomies and robust phylogenetic hypotheses. One notable Caribbean radiation lacking such data are dwarf geckos of the genus Sphaerodactylus. Systematics of the Puerto Rican Sphaerodactylus have been turbulent since the initial species descriptions and no molecular phylogenies exist that include complete or near-complete taxon sampling. Here, we combine a multi-locus molecular phylogeny with extensive morphological information to investigate the current diversity of Sphaerodactylus geckos from the Puerto Rican Bank, with a large number of species from Hispaniola as an outgroup. In particular, we focus our efforts on resolving the taxonomy of the Sphaerodactylus macrolepis Günther species complex. We find S. macrolepis sensu lato (currently two nominal species with nine subspecies) is made up of at least four diagnosable species within two clades: (1) the sister species Sphaerodactylus macrolepis sensu stricto from the Virgin Islands (including St. Croix) and Culebra, and S. parvus King from islands in the northern Lesser Antilles; and (2) all other Sphaerodactylus macrolepis subspecies from Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. We resurrect Sphaerodactylus grandisquamis Stejneger from synonymy to refer to all subspecies from Puerto Rico and elevate the subspecies Sphaerodactylus inigoi Thomas & Schwartz for geckos from Vieques and western Culebra. The resulting phylogeny and revised taxonomy will be a useful tool for subsequent research into Sphaerodactylus conservation and evolution.


Zootaxa, Vol. 4712, No. 2 (December 2019). DOI.