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  1. Lycodon alcalai is a small, terrestrial snake endemic to the northern Philippines where it is known from the islands of Batan (70 km2), Sabtang (16 km2), and Calayan (196 km2; Ota and Ross 1994. Copeia 1994:159–174; Oliveros et al. 2011. Sci. Pap. Nat. Hist. Mus. Univ. Kans. 43:1–20). Although L. alcalai has been reported to prey upon Common Tree Frogs (Polypedates leucomystax) and unidentified, soft-shelled reptilian eggs (Ota and Ross 1994, op. cit.), little natural history information is available for this species. Here, we report on a new diet item for L. alcalai: an as of yet undescribed species ofmore »scaly-toed gecko (Lepidodactylus).« less
  2. Corneous proteins are an important component of the tetrapod integument. Duplication and diversification of keratins and associated proteins are linked with the origin of most novel integumentary structures like mammalian hair, avian feathers, and scutes covering turtle shells. Accordingly, the loss of integumentary structures often coincides with the loss of genes encoding keratin and associated proteins. For example, many hair keratins in dolphins and whales have become pseudogenes. The adhesive setae of geckos and anoles are composed of both intermediate filament keratins (IF-keratins, formerly known as alpha-keratins) and corneous beta-proteins (CBPs, formerly known as beta-keratins) and recent whole genome assembliesmore »of two gecko species and an anole uncovered duplications in seta-specific CBPs in each of these lineages. While anoles evolved adhesive toepads just once, there are two competing hypotheses about the origin(s) of digital adhesion in geckos involving either a single origin or multiple origins. Using data from three published gecko genomes, I examine CBP gene evolution in geckos and find support for a hypothesis where CBP gene duplications are associated with the repeated evolution of digital adhesion. Although these results are preliminary, I discuss how additional gecko genome assemblies, combined with phylogenies of keratin and associated protein genes and gene duplication models, can provide rigorous tests of several hypotheses related to gecko CBP evolution. This includes a taxon sampling strategy for sequencing and assembly of gecko genomes that could help resolve competing hypotheses surrounding the origin(s) of digital adhesion.« less
  3. Synopsis Recently-developed, molecularly-based phylogenies of geckos have provided the basis for reassessing the number of times adhesive toe-pads have arisen within the Gekkota. At present both a single origin and multiple origin hypotheses prevail, each of which has consequences that relate to explanations about digit form and evolutionary transitions underlying the enormous variation in adhesive toe pad structure among extant, limbed geckos (pygopods lack pertinent features). These competing hypotheses result from mapping the distribution of toe pads onto a phylo- genetic framework employing the simple binary expedient of whether such toe pads are present or absent. It is evident, however,more »that adhesive toe pads are functional complexes that consist of a suite of integrated structural components that interact to bring about adhesive contact with the substratum and release from it. We evaluated the competing hypotheses about toe pad origins using 34 features associated with digit structure (drawn from the overall form of the digits; the presence and form of adhesive scansors; the proportions and structure of the phalanges; aspects of digital muscular and tendon morphology; presence and form of paraphalangeal elements; and the presence and form of substrate compliance-enhancing structures). We mapped these onto a well-supported phylogeny to reconstruct their evolution. Nineteen of these characters proved to be informative for all extant, limbed geckos, allowing us to assess which of them exhibit co- occurrence and/or clade-specificity. We found the absence of adhesive toe pads to be the ancestral state for the extant Gekkota as a whole, and our data to be consistent with independent origins of adhesive toe pads in the Diplodactylidae, Sphaerodactylidae, Phyllodactylidae, and Gekkonidae, with a strong likelihood of multiple origins in the latter three families. These findings are consistent with recently-published evidence of the presence of adhesively-competent digits in geckos generally regarded as lacking toe pads. Based upon morphology we identify other taxa at various locations within the gekkotan tree that are promising candidates for the expression of the early phases of adhesively-assisted locomotion. Investigation of functionally transitional forms will be valuable for enhancing our understanding of what is necessary and sufficient for the transition to adhesively-assisted locomotion, and for those whose objectives are to develop simulacra of the gekkotan adhesive system for biotechnological applications.« less