Tamar K, Els J, Kornilios P, Soorae P, Tarroso P, Thanou E, Pereira J, Shah JN, Elhassan EEM, Aguhob JC, Badaam SF, Eltayeb MM, Pusey R, Papenfuss TJ, Macey JR, Carranza S





Effective biodiversity conservation planning starts with genetic characterization within and among focal populations, in order to understand the likely impact of threats for ensuring the long-term viability of a species. The Wonder Gecko, Teratoscincus keyserlingii, is one of nine members of the genus. This species is distributed in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, with a small isolated population in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it is classified nationally as Critically Endangered. Within its Arabian range, anthropogenic activity is directly linked to the species’ decline, with highly localised and severely fragmented populations. Here we describe the evolutionary history of Teratoscincus, by reconstructing its phylogenetic relationships and estimating its divergence times and ancestral biogeography. For conservation implications of T. keyserlingii we evaluate the genetic structure of the Arabian population using genomic data. This study supports the monophyly of most species and reveals considerable intraspecific variability in T. microlepis and T. keyserlingii, which necessitate broad systematic revisions. The UAE population of T. keyserlingii likely arrived from southern Iran during the Pleistocene and no internal structure was recovered within, implying a single population status. Regional conservation of T. keyserlingii requires improved land management and natural habitat restoration in the species’ present distribution, and expansion of current protected areas, or establishment of new areas with suitable habitat for the species, mostly in northern Abu Dhabi Emirate.


Journal: PLoS ONE

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0244150