Studies on genetic variability amongst native and introduced species contribute to a better understanding of the genetic diversity of species along their autochthonous distribution and identify possible routes of introduction. Gonatodes caudiscutatus is a gecko native to western Ecuador and introduced to the Galapagos Islands. Despite being a successful species in human-modified habitats along its native and non-native ranges, neither the colonisation process nor the genetic diversity of this gecko is known. In this study, we analysed 55 individuals from 14 localities in western Ecuador and six localities in San Cristobal Island, Galapagos — the only island with a large, self-sustaining population. We amplified and analysed the genetic variability of two nuclear genes (Cmos and Rag2) and one mitochondrial gene (16S). Cmos and Rag2 sequences presented little to none genetic variability, while 16S allowed us to build a haplotype network. We identified nine haplotypes across mainland Ecuador, two of which are also present in Galapagos. Low genetic diversity between insular and continental populations suggests that the introduction of G. caudiscutatus on the Islands is relatively recent. Due to the widespread geographical distribution of mainland haplotypes, it was not possible to determine the source population of the introduction. This study represents the first exploration of the genetic diversity of Gonatodes caudiscutatus, utilising genetic tools to gain insights into its invasion history in the Galapagos.
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Research Study Findings from Universidad San Francisco de Quito Update Understanding of Biodiversity [First genetic insights of Gonatodes caudiscutatus (Reptilia, Gekkota) in the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador]
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