Genetic study finds treasure trove of new lizards

March 4, 2009
The gecko Diplodactylus tessellatus

( -- University of Adelaide research has discovered that there are many more species of Australian lizards than previously thought, raising new questions about conservation and management of Australia's native reptiles.

PhD student Paul Oliver, from the University's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has done a detailed genetic study of the Australian gecko genus Diplodactylus and found more than twice the recognised number of gecko species, from 13 species to 29. This study was done in colloboration with the South Australian Museum and Western Australian Museum.

"Many of these species are externally very similar, leading to previous severe underestimation of true species diversity," says Mr Oliver.

"One of the major problems for biodiversity conservation and management is that many species remain undocumented.

"This problem is widely acknowledged to be dire among invertebrates and in developing countries.

"But in this group of vertebrates in a developed nation, which we thought we knew reasonably well, we found more than half the species were unrecognised."

Mr Oliver says this has great significance for conservation. For instance, what was thought to be a single very widespread species of gecko has turned out to be eight or nine separate species with much narrower, more restricted habitats and possibly much more vulnerable to environmental change, he says.

"This completely changes how we look at conservation management of these species," he says.

"Even at just the basic inventory level, this shows that there is a lot of work still to be done. Vertebrate taxonomy clearly remains far from complete with many species still to be discovered. This will require detailed genetic and morphological work, using integrated data from multiple sources. It will require considerable effort and expense but with potentially rich returns."

Source: University of Adelaide

Explore further: World's largest gorillas 'one step from going extinct'

Related Stories

Can Geckos get going?

March 21, 2013

( —New research from Macquarie University suggests that arid zone reptiles could struggle to find suitable homes as a result of human induced climate change.

Museum specimens aid conservation effort in Madagascar

April 16, 2009

There is a new tool for those developing conservation strategies for threatened species and landscapes: museum specimens. Richard Pearson and Christopher Raxworthy of the American Museum of Natural History dusted off a number ...

Scientists announce top 10 new species for 2014 (w/ Video)

May 22, 2014

An appealing carnivorous mammal, a 12-meter-tall tree that has been hiding in plain sight and a sea anemone that lives under an Antarctic glacier are among the species identified by the SUNY College of Environmental Science ...

Fanged frog, 162 other new species found in Mekong

September 25, 2009

(AP) -- A gecko with leopard-like spots on its body and a fanged frog that eats birds are among 163 new species discovered last year in the Mekong River region of Southeast Asia, an environmental group said Friday.

Recommended for you

New analysis of big data sheds light on cell functions

October 26, 2016

Researchers have developed a new way of obtaining useful information from big data in biology to better understand—and predict—what goes on inside a cell. Using genome-scale models, researchers were able to integrate ...

Researchers identify genes for 'Help me!' aromas from corn

October 25, 2016

When corn seedlings are nibbled by caterpillars, they defend themselves by releasing scent compounds that attract parasitic wasps whose larvae consume the caterpillar—but not all corn varieties are equally effective at ...

Structure of key DNA replication protein solved

October 25, 2016

A research team led by scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) has solved the three-dimensional structure of a key protein that helps damaged cellular DNA repair itself. Investigators say that knowing ...

Genome editing: Efficient CRISPR experiments in mouse cells

October 25, 2016

In order to use the CRISPR-Cas9 system to cut genes, researchers must design an RNA sequence that matches the DNA of the target gene. Most genes have hundreds of such sequences, with varying activity and uniqueness in the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.