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Deep divergence and structure in the Tropical Oceanic Pacific: a multilocus phylogeography of a widespread gekkonid lizard (Squamata: Gekkonidae: Gehyra oceanica)

October 29, 2015


The islands of the Tropical Oceanic Pacific (TOP) host both local radiations and widespread, colonizing species. The few phylogeographical analyses of widespread species often point to recent human-aided expansions through the Pacific, suggesting that the communities are recently assembled. Here we apply multilocus data to infer biogeographical history of the gekkonid lizard, Gehyra oceanica, which is widespread, but for which prior analyses suggested a pre-human history and in situ diversification.


Tropical Oceanic Pacific.


We generated a data set including mtDNA and diagnostic SNPs for 173 individuals of G. oceanica spanning Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. For a subset of these individuals, we also sequenced nuclear loci. From these data, we performed maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference to reveal major clades. We also performed Bayesian clustering analyses and coalescence–based species delimitation tests to infer the number of species in this area.


We found evidence for six independent evolutionary lineages (candidate species) within G. oceanica that diverged between the Pliocene and the early Pleistocene, with high diversity through northern Melanesia, and pairing of northern Melanesian endemic taxa with widespread lineages across Micronesia and Polynesia.

Main conclusions

The islands of northern Melanesia not only have unrecognized diversity, but also were the source of independent expansions of lineages through the more remote northern and eastern Pacific. These results highlight the very different evolutionary histories of island faunas on remote archipelagos versus those across Melanesia and point to the need for more intensive studies of fauna within Melanesia if we are to understand the evolution of diversity across the tropical Pacific.

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