Older than the Islands: Origin and diversification of Galápagos leaf-toed geckos (Phyllodactylidae: Phyllodactylus) by multiple colonizations

Omar Torres-Carvajal, Charles W. Barnes, María J. Pozo-Andrade, Washington Tapia, Gabriela Nicholls

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24 Scopus citations


Aim: We re-examine the biogeography of the leaf-toed geckos (Phyllodactylus) endemic to the Galápagos Islands. Our aim was to (1) test the multiple-colonization hypothesis against the single-colonization scenario proposed for most terrestrial organisms in the archipelago, (2) estimate the age of colonization of Phyllodactylus, and (3) evaluate the roles of dispersal and vicariance in the evolution of these lizards. Location: Galápagos archipelago, Ecuador. Methods: Phylogenetic relationships were evaluated with maximum-likelihood and Bayesian methods, including the estimation of divergence times and species trees. Previous biogeographical hypotheses were evaluated with tree-topology tests. Results: Our results support a multiple-colonization scenario: all but one species of Phyllodactylus in the Galápagos Islands belonged to a single radiation. The founders of this radiation colonized the archipelago 13.2 Ma when the islands currently above water had not yet emerged. Ten million years later, the ancestors of Phyllodactylus darwini colonized San Cristóbal. Main conclusions: As with other Galápagos organisms, the Pacific coast of South America seems to have been the source for the founders that led to the oldest radiation of leaf-toed geckos. Unlike most Galápagos endemics, however, P. darwini might have originated in the Andes. Our phylogenetic hypotheses and recent palaeogeographical data support both dispersal and vicariance as mechanisms leading to the radiation of leaf-toed geckos in the Galápagos Islands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1883-1894
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Dispersal
  • Galápagos
  • Island biogeography
  • Island evolution
  • Lizards
  • Multiple colonizations
  • Phyllodactylus
  • Phylogeny
  • Vicariance


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