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Cryptic extinction risk in a western Pacific lizard radiation

May 22, 2022

Cryptic ecologies, the Wallacean Shortfall of undocumented species’ geographical ranges and the Linnaean Shortfall of undescribed diversity, are all major barriers to conservation assessment. When these factors overlap with drivers of extinction risk, such as insular distributions, the number of threatened species in a region or clade may be underestimated, a situation we term ‘cryptic extinction risk’. The genus Lepidodactylus is a diverse radiation of insular and arboreal geckos that occurs across the western Pacific. Previous work on Lepidodactylus showed evidence of evolutionary displacement around continental fringes, suggesting an inherent vulnerability to extinction from factors such as competition and predation. We sought to (1) comprehensively review status and threats, (2) estimate the number of undescribed species, and (3) estimate extinction risk in data deficient and candidate species, in Lepidodactylus. From our updated IUCN Red List assessment, 60% of the 58 recognized species are threatened (n = 15) or Data Deficient (n = 21), which is higher than reported for most other lizard groups. Species from the smaller and isolated Pacific islands are of greatest conservation concern, with most either threatened or Data Deficient, and all particularly vulnerable to invasive species. We estimated 32 undescribed candidate species and linear modelling predicted that an additional 18 species, among these and the data deficient species, are threatened with extinction. Focusing efforts to resolve the taxonomy and conservation status of key taxa, especially on small islands in the Pacific, is a high priority for conserving this remarkably diverse, yet poorly understood, lizard fauna. Our data highlight how cryptic ecologies and cryptic diversity combine and lead to significant underestimation of extinction risk.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Cryptic extinction risk in a western Pacific lizard radiation
DOI 10.1007/s10531-022-02412-x
Authors Peter J. McDonald, Rafe M. Brown, Frederick Kraus, Philip Bowles, Umilaela Arifin, Samuel J Eliades, Robert N. Fisher, Maren Gaulke, L Lee Grismer, Ivan Ineich, Benjamin R Karin, Camila G Meneses, Stephen J Richards, Marites B Sanguila, Cameron D Siler, Paul M Oliver
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biodiversity and Conservation
Series Number
Index ID 70232532
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center

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