Origin, diversity, and conservation of karst-associated Bent-toed Geckos (Genus Cyrtodactylus) in Myanmar (Burma)

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution
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  • a Herpetology Laboratory, Department of Biology, La Sierra University, USA
  • | b Department of Biological Sciences and Museum of Natural History, Auburn University, USA
  • | c School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
  • | d Myanmar Environment Sustainable Conservation, Myanmar

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Fifty-eight percent of the 43 known species of the Bent-toed Geckos (Cyrtodactylus) from Myanmar are found only in karstic habitats in the Shan Plateau and Salween and Ayeyarwady basins. A stochastic character mapping analysis indicated that the occupation of karstic habitats evolved at least four times independently in Burmese lineages with both Sundaic and Indian origins. Karstic habitats not only serve as foci for speciation but are refugia for species extirpated from the surrounding forested habitats due to agricultural development. Despite the high levels of biodiversity and site-specific endemism in karstic habitats in Myanmar, they are some of the least protected ecosystems. The immense financial returns from unsustainable resource extraction (cement manufacturing) makes the challenge of legal karst conservation extremely difficult. Sadly, their continued exploitation for limestone shows no signs of abating. Until karst habitats in Myanmar are thoroughly investigated, a significant portion of this country’s herpetological diversity will remain underestimated and unprotected.

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