Scientists identify new gecko species in West African rain forests

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Washington, June 2 (ANI): According to a new report, the West African forest gecko, a secretive but widely distributed species in forest patches from Ghana to Congo, is actually four distinct species that appear to have evolved over the past 100,000 years due to the fragmentation of a belt of tropical rain forest.

The report has been published in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The discovery by former University of California, Berkeley, students Adam D. Leachi and Matthew K. Fujita demonstrates the wealth of biodiversity still surviving in the islands of tropical rain forest in West Africa, and the ability of new DNA analysis techniques to distinguish different species, even when they look alike.

"We tended to find this gecko, Hemidactylus fasciatus, throughout our travels in West Africa," said Leachi, a herpetologist with UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. "Despite the fact that it is recognized as one species, using new methods we have established a high probability that it is composed of at least four species."

Though the forest fragmentation is part of a long-term drying trend in West Africa, the loss of forest and the resultant impact on the gecko is increasing as a result of human activity, he noted.

"These rain forests are classified as one of the biodiversity hotspots on the planet, yet they are one of the most endangered areas on the earth," Leachi said. "Human deforestation is accentuating the process of habitat destruction." (ANI)

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