Renaming Rhacodactylus: Revision of the giant geckos of New Caledonia by Zootaxa

Zootaxa published an article on July 31, 2012 that created a massive shift in the way we could describe and classify New Caledonia geckos. This news has recently been buzzing across the gecko forums and we wanted to share the article with you.

Summarizing the Article

On Geckos Unlimited user Uncaria explains that the study proposes the following:

  1. To split the Rhacodactylus genus into Rhacodactylus, Correlophus, and Mniarogekko;
  2. Rhacodactylus ciliatus and R. sarasinorum would become Correlophus ciliatus and C. sarasinorum;
  3. Correlophus ciliatus would be split into C. ciliatus and C. belepensis;
  4. The species R. chahoua would be split into Mniarogekko chahoua and M. jalu.

Here’s the abstract:

We employed a molecular phylogenetic approach using the mitochondrial ND2 gene and five associated tRNAs (tryptophan, alanine, asparagine, cysteine, tyrosine) and the nuclear RAG1 gene to investigate relationships within the diplodactylid geckos of New Caledonia and particularly among the giant geckos, Rhacodactylus, a charismatic group of lizards that are extremely popular among herpetoculturalists. The current generic allocation of species within New Caledonian diplodactylids does not adequately reflect their phylogenetic relationships. Bavayia madjo, a high-elevation endemic is not closely related to other Bavayia or to members of any other genus and is placed in a new genus, Paniegekko gen. nov. Rhacodactylus is not monophyletic. The small-bodied and highly autapomorphic genus Eurydactylodes is embedded within Rhacodactylus as sister to R. chahoua. Rhacodactylus ciliatus and R. sarasinorum are sister taxa but are not part of the same clade as other giant geckos and the generic name Correlophus Guichenot is resurrected for them. Remaining New Caledonian giant geckos (R. leachianus, R. trachrhynchus, R. auriculatus) receive weak support as a monophyletic group. Although the monophyly of Rhacodactylus (including Eurydactylodes) exclusive of Correlophus cannot be rejected, our results support the recognition of a R. chahoua + Eurydactylodes clade separate from Rhacodactylus sensu stricto. Because of the distinctiveness of Eurydactylodes from R. chahoua (and other New Caledonian ‘giant geckos’), we retain this name for the four species to which it has been consistently applied and erect a new genus, Mniarogekko gen. nov. to accommodate R. chahoua. There is little genetic differentiation within the narrowly distributed Corrrelophis sarasinorum, but C. ciliatus from southern New Caledonia are both genetically and morphologically differentiated from a recently discovered Correlophus from the Îles Belep, north of the Grande Terre, which is here described as C. belepensis sp. nov. Although only subtley different morphologically, the populations of Mniarogekko from the far northwest of the Grande Terre and from the Îles Belep are strongly differentiated genetically from M. chahoua populations in the central part of the Grande Terre and are described as M. jalu sp. nov. Rhacodactylus auriculatus exhibits some genetic substructure across its nearly island-wide range in New Caledonia, but overall divergence is minimal. Rhacodactylus leachianus exhibits low levels of divergence across its range and southern insular forms previously assigned to R. l. henkeli are not divergent from southern Grande Terre populations. The few populations of R. trachyrhynchus sampled are strongly divergent from one another and a specimen from Îlot Môrô near the Île des Pins is especially distinctive. This specimen and others examined from Îlot Môrô are morphologically assignable to the species described by Boulenger in 1878 as Chameleonurus trachycephalus and is recognized here as a full species. New diagnoses are provided for each of the eight genera of endemic New Caledonian diplodactylid geckos now recognized. The results of our study necessitate determinations of the conservation status of the new species described or recognized. Mniarogekko jalu sp. nov. is considered Endangered, but is locally abundant. Correlophus belepensis sp. nov. is considered Critically Endangered and is restricted to the ultramafic plateaux of Île Art. Although described from the Île des Pins, we have only been able to confirm the existence of Rhacodactylus trachycephalus on the tiny satellite island Îlot Môrô and consider it to be Critically Endangered. If indeed restricted to this islet, R. trachycephalus may well have the smallest range and perhaps the smallest population of any gecko in the world.

The full article is available here in PDF format: Revision of the giant geckos of New Caledonia (Reptilia: Diplodactylidae: Rhacodactylus).

So, what do you think?

What do you think? Are you going to label your crested geckos Correlophus ciliatus at the next reptile show?

What do you think?

Written by Matthew

I've been keeping odd pets since I was 14, keeping and breeding a variety of species from viper geckos to poison dart frogs. Now living in Georgia, working in online advertising.


Leave a Reply
  1. Hello, Renaming of the species would be difficult for people in general
    to grasp. Unless one is very scientifically oriented, I think the purpose would
    only be to serve those that are really tuned in to how genetics work.
    I guess if necessary, people would have to adapt to the change, but, is
    this really necessary?

    Thank you.

    Melissa N.

  2. It’s good that they did this. I wish they’d do it with more species like the central american boas that all get lumped together into one species.

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