What geckos are – an ecological-biogeographic perspective

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Shai Meiri School of Zoology & Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University, 6997801, Tel Aviv, Israel

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Geckos are a hyper-diverse, ancient, and globally distributed group. They have diverged early from other squamates and thus can be expected to differ from them along multiple ecological, life history, and biogeographic axes. I review a wide range of gecko traits, comparing them to those of other lizard taxa, to identify the unique, and unifying, attributes of geckos among lizards, based on comprehensive databases of lizard distributions and biological attributes. Few traits completely separate geckos from other lizard taxa, yet they differ to a large degree along many axes: they are more restricted to low latitudes and altitudes, are especially diverse on islands, but relatively scarce in America. They are small lizards, that lay small, fixed clutch sizes, for which they compensate only partially by laying frequently. Because they mature at relatively similar ages and have similar lifespans to other lizards, geckos produce fewer offspring over a year, and over their lifetimes, perhaps implying that they enjoy higher survival rates. While being the only large lizard clade of predominantly nocturnal lizards a large proportion of species is active by day. Gecko body temperatures and preferred temperatures are lower than those of other lizards –even when they are compared to lizards with similar activity times. Worryingly, most geckos have small ranges that often reside completely outside of protected areas – much more frequently than in other reptile and vertebrate taxa.

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