Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - REPTILE SYSTEMATICS (Uses of phylogenies to study evolutionary, ecological and biogeographical processes: the North African and Arabian arid reptile faunas)

Understanding the patterns and processes underlying species diversification and adaptation, the evolution of communities and biogeography is one of the fundamental goals of the biological sciences. In this project we have used the information contained in the mitochondrial DNA of several reptile and some amphibian groups to investigate such phenomena and to test a wide array of hypotheses. For instance, we were able to show that the largest desert on earth, the Sahara, has probably existed as a continuous patch of desert large enough to allow the evolution of certain desert adapted forms for at least 5 million years. We were also able to investigate the way montane areas gain their endemic faunas by comparing complete and robust molecular genealogies of a group of mountain lizards (Iberolacerta) with a group of mountain newts (Euproctus).

It was in the course of this investigation that we found out that while the lizards probably got restricted to mountains as a result of competence with other lizards of the genus Podarcis, the mountain newts might have appeared as a result of the uplift of their habitat. But maybe one of the most important discoveries related to this project is that we were able to find and describe a new species of mountain newt from the Iberian Peninsula. The discovery of this new species has clarified the origin and distribution of the Iberian mountain newts and has opened a new line of research on the biology, ecology and conservation of this species.

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