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Integrative taxonomy reveals six new species of day geckos of the genus Cnemaspis Strauch, 1887 (Reptilia:Squamata: Gekkonidae) from geographically-isolated hill forests in Sri Lanka

Title: Integrative taxonomy reveals six new species of day geckos of the genus Cnemaspis Strauch, 1887 (Reptilia:Squamata: Gekkonidae) from geographically-isolated hill forests in Sri Lanka

Creators: Suranjan Karunarathna, Nikolay A. Poyarkov, Anslem de Silva, Majintha Madawala, Madhava Botejue, Vladislav A. Gorin, Thilina Surasinghe, Dinesh Gabadage, Kanishka D.B. Ukuwela, Aaron M. Bauer

Submitted March 12, 2019.
Accepted June 20, 2019.
Published online at www.senckenberg.de/vertebrate-zoology on August 15, 2019.
Published in print Q4/2019.

DOI: 10.26049/VZ69-3-2019-02
PDF/A 27MB

Published by Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung

Date (Publication Year): 2019

Resource Type (General): TEXT

Resource Type (optional): Vertebrate Zoology, Scientific Article

Description: Six new day gecko species of the genus Cnemaspis Strauch, 1887 are described from geographically isolated forested hills (Bambarabotuwa, Kadugannawa, Kokagala, Kudumbigala, Maragala and Walapane) in Sri Lanka based on analyses of morphological and molecular traits. We provide an updated mtDNA-based genealogy of Sri Lankan Cnemaspis and provide further evidence that diversity of the genus in the island may still be underestimated. The six new Cnemaspis species described herein are small to medium (27 – 40 mm SVL) in size and can be differentiated from all other Sri Lankan congeners by a suite of distinct morphometric, meristic and molecular characteristics. They are recorded from wet, cool, spacious granite caves found within rock outcrops embedded in forests distributed across low and mid-elevations (~ 25 – 600 m) with minimal anthropogenic disturbance. Existing data suggest that each of these geckos have a highly restricted (point endemic) distribution ranges. Further, their area of occurrence, extent of distribution, and relative a abundance appear to be low, thus all these species are categorized as Critically Endangered (CR) under IUCN Red List criteria. With the descriptions of these species, the number of Cnemaspis described from Sri Lanka increases to 32, all of which are endemic to the island. The discovery of these new species highlights the understudied diversity of geckos in isolated hills. Being rupicolous microhabitat specialists with a scansorial mode of life, these species are susceptible to both localized and widespread threats. Therefore, isolated hill forests of Sri Lanka, especially in the intermediate and dry zones, warrant special conservation, habitat protection, indepth research and specific management actions.

Key words: Anthropogenic threats, biogeography, conservation, endangered species, granite caves, microhabitat, natural history, mtDNA, morphology, point endemic, systematics, wildlife.

Citation: Karunarathna, S., Poyarkov, N. A., de Silva, A. Madawala, M., Botejue, M., Gorin, V. A., Surasinghe, T., Gabadage, D., Ukuwela, K. D. B., Bauer A. M. (2019). Integrative taxonomy reveals six new species of day geckos of the genus Cnemaspis Strauch, 1887 (Reptilia:Squamata: Gekkonidae) from geographically-isolated hill forests in Sri Lanka. Vertebrate Zoology, 69(3): 247-298. https://doi.org/10.26049/VZ69-3-2019-02