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23 Jan 2016 - CANCELLED - Catarina Rato (CIBIO-InBIO/UP) | February 5, 2016 - 15h00 | CIBIO-InBIO’s Room A, Campus de Vairão


The lack of morphological diagnosable characters typical of cryptic species, poses a particular problem to taxonomists. Phylogenetic studies on the Moorish gecko, Tarentola mauritanica, uncovered extremely high levels of mtDNA diversity with six identified clades. Because of the conserved morphology of this species and lack of monophyly, it was suggested that T. mauritanica is a cryptic species complex, originated around 6 Mya. The recent addition of novel genetic markers and Bayesian coalescent species delimitation analysis support all these six mitochondrial clades as ‘‘unconfirmed candidate species”, pending morphological data to define them.
The quantification of realized niche overlap and the integration of species distribution models (SDMs) with calibrated phylogenies to study niche evolution are becoming powerful tools to understand speciation events. Our results suggest that the diversification within T. mauritanica, during the Miocene and Pleistocene, is associated with both niche divergence and niche conservatism, related to temperature and humidity. Our ecophysiological experimental study suggests that the individuals from European populations display a trend for higher water loss, but less rigid, compared with the Iberian populations. The detection of a phylogenetic signal suggests divergent evolutionary responses to the environment, which may account for the differences in their range expansion.


Catarina Rato is a Post-Doc Researcher (FCT Grant) of CIBIO-InBIO, since 2014. BSc in Biology Applied to the Terrestrial Resources (2004, Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon), MSc in Biology (2007, University of Porto), PhD in Biology (2012, University of Porto). Member of the Applied Phylogenetics (AP) and Population Genetics, Hybridization and Speciation (POPGEN) research groups of CIBIO-InBIO. She has studied deeply the phylogeny and phylogeographic patterns of the Mediterranean Moorish gecko, Tarentola mauritanica and how these have affected the genetic diversity of several genomic compartments. She has also carried out studies on niche evolution and ecophysiology experimentation to understand better the invasive and establishment capacity of T. mauritanica in Europe. More recently, she is interested in studying the sex determination patterns of the Moorish gecko, whose sex allocation is influenced by environmental temperature, to understand the genes behind this process and the impact of climate change in the population dynamics and survival.


[Group Leader: James Harris, Applied Phylogenetics]


Image credits: Catarina Rato

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