Today@Sam Article

New Research Explores Oldest European Gecko

July 7, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

Mediterranean house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)Sam Houston State University associate professor Juan Diego Daza, in the Department of Biological Sciences, co-authored a new study with colleagues from Europe and the United States that involves the oldest species of gecko in Europe.

Biologists generally accept the notion that evolution is not reversible, a process also referred to as devolution. Evolutionary biologists offer different interpretations of this law, known as Dollo’s law of irreversibility.  In recent years, some exceptions have been proposed, including the loss and regain of toes in lizards. This law was proposed by the Belgian Paleontologist Louis Dollo and, although he is recognized for proposing this principle, his focus was anatomy of extinct fish and reptiles, including dragonfish, turtles, mosasaurs, snakes and dinosaurs.

In the international scientific journal Royal Society Open Science, a new species of gecko in Belgium is described and named after Louis Dollo. The species lived during a period known as the Paleocene Eocene Thermal maximum (56 million years ago) when this part of the planet was much warmer.

The new gecko was part of the diverse reptile fauna of the “Greenhouse World,” when tropical and subtropical conditions extended much further towards the poles than at present. The increase in temperatures led to a rise in sea level, with many areas of Eurasia submerged. Thus, the importance of this period is magnified by understanding future global climate change.

The new species provides evidence for the early history of geckos in Europe and is easily recognized by the unique surface of the frontal bone between the eyes, which is unlike any other gecko (living or extinct).

This project is a collaboration between researchers from multiple institutions, including the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia (Andrej Čerňanský), Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Annelise Folie, Thierry Smith and Richard Smith), Sam Houston State (Juan Diego Daza) and Villanova University (Aaron M. Bauer) in the United States.

Photo info: The Mediterranean house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) from Cyprus is one of the 2151 living species of geckos and has a widespread distribution along the Mediterranean coasts of Southern Europe and Northern Africa. ©2006 Annelise Folie

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