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

Jane Melville, James A. Schulte, Allan Larson

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-138
Number of pages16
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Defensive display
  • Gekkonidae
  • Gekkota
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Molecular systematics
  • Pygopodidae
  • Reptilia
  • Sauria

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