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Open Access Research article

Phylogeography and dispersal in the velvet gecko (Oedura lesueurii), and potential implications for conservation of an endangered snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides)

Sylvain Dubey1*, Benjamin Croak2, David Pike23, Jonathan Webb2 and Richard Shine2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biophore Bld, University of Lausanne, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland

2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

3 School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:67  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-67

Published: 14 May 2012

Abstract

Background

To conserve critically endangered predators, we also need to conserve the prey species upon which they depend. Velvet geckos (Oedura lesueurii) are a primary prey for the endangered broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides), which is restricted to sandstone habitats in southeastern Australia. We sequenced the ND2 gene from 179 velvet geckos, to clarify the lizards’ phylogeographic history and landscape genetics. We also analysed 260 records from a longterm (3-year) capture-mark-recapture program at three sites, to evaluate dispersal rates of geckos as a function of locality, sex and body size.

Results

The genetic analyses revealed three ancient lineages in the north, south and centre of the species’ current range. Estimates of gene flow suggest low dispersal rates, constrained by the availability of contiguous rocky habitat. Mark-recapture records confirm that these lizards are highly sedentary, with most animals moving < 30 m from their original capture site even over multi-year periods.

Conclusion

The low vagility of these lizards suggests that they will be slow to colonise vacant habitat patches; and hence, efforts to restore degraded habitats for broad-headed snakes may need to include translocation of lizards.

Keywords:
Australia; Phylogeography; Dispersal; Reptile; Landscape genetics; Conservation