The divergence of two independent lineages of an endemic Chinese gecko, Gekko swinhonis, launched by the Qinling orogenic belt


Kaiya Zhou, Fax: 86 25 85891526; E-mail:


The genetic structure and demographic history of an endemic Chinese gecko, Gekko swinhonis, were investigated by analysing the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene and 10 microsatellite loci for samples collected from 27 localities. Mitochondrial DNA data provided a detailed distribution of two highly divergent evolutionary lineages, between which the average pairwise distance achieved was 0.14. The geographic division of the two lineages coincided with a plate boundary consisting of the Qinling and Taihang Mts, suggesting a historical vicariant pattern. The orogeny of the Qinling Mts, a dispersal and major climatic barrier of the region, may have launched the independent lineage divergence. Both lineages have experienced recent expansion, and the current sympatric localities comprised the region of contact between the lineages. Individual-based phylogenetic analyses of nucDNA and Bayesian-clustering approaches revealed a deep genetic structure analogous to mtDNA. Incongruence between nucDNA and mtDNA at the individual level at localities outside of the contact region can be explained by the different inheritance patterns and male-biased dispersal in this species. High genetic divergence, long-term isolation and ecological adaptation, as well as the morphological differences, suggest the presence of a cryptic species.