Morphological evidence of speciation in croaking geckos (Aristelliger spp.)

Open Access
Rutter, Amy R
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • S Blair Hedges, Thesis Supervisor
  • James Harold Marden, Thesis Supervisor
  • James Harold Marden, Honors Advisor
  • Heather M Hines, Faculty Reader
  • Aristelliger
  • Caribbean
  • croaking gecko
  • cryptic diversity
  • Jamaica
  • morphology
  • speciation
The Caribbean has been identified as a region containing cryptic diversity through the genetic analyses of numerous taxa. The croaking gecko species within the genus Aristelliger have been historically difficult to separate from one another, but phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA by Cloud (2013) revealed several distinct clades within the currently recognized species. Using these clades as a guide, this study seeks to discover if there is morphological evidence of speciation within the currently recognized species Aristelliger praesignis and A. georgeensis. By analyzing over 400 museum specimens using a suite of both conventional and unconventional body proportion, scalation, and pattern characteristics, potential species were morphologically diagnosed. We identified a total of eleven new species and suggest that A. irregularis and A. nelsoni be promoted to full species status again. At least one characteristic can be used to completely differentiate one species from another in 91% of pairings, with several slightly overlapping characters (<15%) being used for all other pairings. In many comparisons, there are several characteristics that provided complete separation in addition to numerous slightly overlapping characters. Additional phylogenetic analyses, especially of A. praesignis nelsoni and A. georgeensis, would be beneficial to support our proposed separation of species within the genus Aristelliger.