Spiny-footed lizards, Acanthodactylus spp., constitute an important part of the vertebrate fauna of many arid and desert ecosystems. Their geographic range covers the Iberian Peninsula and Africa north of the Equator to western India. West Africa is an outstanding area to study these lizards, as about half of the genus specific diversity occurs within this region.

This project aims to study the biodiversity, biogeography and systematics of Acanthodactylus spp. in West Africa, focusing on: 1) mapping the geographic distribution of species; 2) characterizing the habitats occupied by each species; 3) identifying biogeographical relationships; 4) identifying biodiversity hotspots; 5) examining morphological characters to aid species level identification; 6) elucidating phylogenetic relationships using morphological characters and DNA sequence data; 7) testing species relationships across geographic barriers. Sampling strategy involves a transect covering, in the following order, Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Burkina-Faso, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco. The transect totals 25000 km and will be performed in a 4x4 car during 100 days.

During the fieldwork, the spatial location of captured lizards will be determined using a G.P.S. and habitats will be characterized with several descriptors. Latter, data will be analysed and a G.I.S. will be used to derive maps with the geographic distribution of each species, patterns of species richness, and to evaluate the influence of environmental factors on species distribution area. Several morphological features and a tissue sample will be collected. Latter, morphological variables and gene sequences will be analysed to detect intra- and interspecific variability and to determine phylogenetic relationships.



Funding agency: National Geographic Society

Budget: 11 000€

Project Code: CRE 7629-04

Period: 2004 - 2005

Principal investigator: JC Brito



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