Putting a name to diversity: Taxonomy of the New Zealand lizard fauna

Rod Hitchmough, Geoff B Patterson, David Gregory Chapple

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The New Zealand lizard fauna is limited to two families, diplodactylid geckos and Eugongylinae skinks. Although its higher-level taxonomic diversity is limited, each family is highly speciose (61 extant skink and 43 extant gecko species). New Zealand lizards are characterised by their ecological, rather than morphological, diversity, which has impeded attempts to delineate and describe species. Numerous species have experienced substantial range reductions following human settlement and the introduction of mammalian predators, whilst others have naturally restricted distributions. Both of these factors have influenced the rate of species discovery and description. However, the implementation of molecular approaches into taxonomic studies has led to an almost threefold increase (38 to 104 extant species) in the number of lizard species recognised. Unfortunately, there remains a large gap between the number of species or taxa recognised in New Zealand and the number that have been formally described (only 55 % of recognised species have been described). Here we provide an overview of the taxonomic history of New Zealand skinks and geckos, outlining the major lineages within each family and providing justification and explanations for the undescribed entities that are recognised. We outline how an integrated morphological and molecular approach can increase the rate of both lizard species discovery and description in New Zealand.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Zealand Lizards
EditorsDavid G Chapple
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783319416748
ISBN (Print)9783319416724
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2016


  • Diplodactylidae
  • Gecko
  • Scincidae
  • Skink
  • Species description
  • Species discovery
  • Taxonomy

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