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A molecular study of phylogenetic relationships and evolution of antipredator strategies in Australian Diplodactylus geckos, subgenus Strophurus




We present phylogenetic analyses of the lizard genus Diplodactylus subgenus Strophurus using 1646 aligned positions of mitochondrial DNA sequences containing 893 parsimony-informative characters for samples of 12 species of Strophurus and 19 additional Australian gecko species. Sequences from three protein-coding genes (ND1, ND2 and COI) and eight intervening transfer RNA genes were examined using parsimony, maximum-likelihood and Bayesian analyses. Species of Strophurus appeared to form a monophyletic group with the possible exception of S. taenicauda. Strophurus has evolved two distinct defence/display characteristics: caudal glands, which expel an unpalatable substance, and striking mouth colours. Caudal glands appeared to have arisen once in a common ancestor of Strophurus, with dermal augmentation of caudal glands characterizing a subclade within the subgenus. Evolution of yellow and dark-blue mouth colours in Strophurus occurred in the context of diurnal activity and may be interpreted as an augmentation of defensive behavioural displays. Molecular divergence suggests that arboreality evolved in a common ancestor of Oedura and Strophurus approximately 29 Mya and that the caudal glands of Strophurus arose approximately 25 Mya. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 82, 123–138.