New Indian Gecko Species (Cyrtodactylus varadgirii) identified by Mitochondrial DNA and discrete morphological divergences

Cyrtodactylus varadgirii took some time to give itself away. It had long been considered to be a variant of another closely related species, C. speciosus. On closer visual inspection it was noted the believed variant had morphological differences’.

A multivariate analysis of 16 morphological measurements from C. speciosus, the ‘variant’ (C. varadgirii) and a confirmed -control- species C. collegalensis identified a distinct difference between C. varadgirii and C. speciosus. As expected the control was also distinct.

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The Holotype Cyrtodactylus varadgirii from Zootaxa, Agarwel et al. 2016 (open source).

Notable scale shapes and assemblages, long limb length, narrow body, and the colour of dorsal spots all set C. varadgirii apart.

Mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) analysis confirmed enough distinction of genetic material  for C. varadgirii to be described as a new species. mDNA is a good genetic record for recent changes in species relatedness as it is more prone to mutations over time.

Discrete, hard to define species like this are becoming easier to detect through the above combination of molecular and morphological evidence. Such studies could offer interesting subjects for microevolutionary studies and our understanding of biodiversity in general. They also highlight the need to try and define these species sooner rather than later, to inform appropriate conservation policy.

Source paper: A new species of the Cyrtodactylus (Geckoella) collegalensis (Beddome, 1870) complex (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from Western India

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