Appearances are deceptive: molecular phylogeny recovers the Scaly Gecko Hemidactylus scabriceps (Reptilia: Squamata: Gekkonidae) as a member of a scansorial and rupicolous clade

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Achyuthan N. Srikanthan
Gandla Chethan Kumar
Aishwarya J. Urs
Sumaithangi Rajagopalan Ganesh


We reassess the systematics of Hemidactylus scabriceps, a recently rediscovered and poorly known gecko, and elucidate its phylogenetic position using molecular data for the first time.  Contrary to previous speculations prompted by its morphological resemblance to other terrestrial Hemidactylus, our phylogenetic analyses recovered H. scabriceps to be a part of a clade consisting of the large-bodied, rock-dwelling Hemidactylus – the H. prashadi group.  Hemidactylus scabriceps also shows high levels of intraspecific genetic divergence, indicative of cryptic diversity.  We also confirm the synonymy of the monotypic genus Lophopholis (erected for H. scabriceps) with Hemidactylus.  We elaborate on the morphology of the type specimen and other recent voucher specimens, and compare it with sister species and other ground-dwelling Hemidactylus in peninsular India.  Species distribution of this ‘outlier’ clade member has been modeled using MaxEnt.  These exercises confirm that it is primarily a smooth-scaled, plain-dwelling, terrestrial species unlike other members in its clade.  This unexpected pattern of genetic alliance and contrasting body form plus habitat associations further underscores the unstudied complexity of peninsular India’s geological history.  Historical denudation of rock formations could have driven evolution of some of these otherwise rupicolous, scansorial gekkonids into smaller terrestrial lizards. 


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