Spatial and species-level metrics reveal global patterns of irreplaceable and imperiled gecko phylogenetic diversity

Rikki Gumbs, Rachel Williams, Anthony Lowney, Darrel Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


Phylogenetic Diversity (PD) is increasingly recognised as a useful tool for prioritising species and regions for conservation effort. Increased availability of spatial and phylogenetic data for reptiles now facilitates their inclusion in phylogenetically-informed conservation prioritisation efforts. Geckos are a highly divergent and diverse clade that comprises almost 20% of global reptile diversity. Their global distribution is coincident with numerous anthropogenic threats, making them worthy of conservation prioritisation. Here, we combine phylogenetic, spatial distribution and extinction risk data for geckos with global human encroachment data to identify both regions and species representing irreplaceable gecko diversity at risk from human pressure. We show that high levels of irreplaceable gecko diversity are restricted to regions under intense human pressure, such as India, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. There is a lack of extinction risk data for the western regions of Angola and Namibia, and yet these regions harbour high levels of irreplaceable diversity. At the species level, geckos display more unique PD than other lizards and snakes and are of greater conservation concern under our metric. The PD represented by Data Deficient geckos is at comparable risk to that of Endangered species. Finally, estimates of potential gecko diversity loss increase by up to 300% when species lacking extinction risk data are included. Our analyses show that many evolutionarily unique gecko species are poorly known and are at an increased risk of extinction. Targeted research is needed to elucidate the conservation status of these species and identify conservation priorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-252
Number of pages14
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • phylogenetic diversity
  • conservation prioritisation
  • reptile conservation
  • biodiversity loss
  • gecko conservation
  • conserving eolutionary history
  • extinction risk
  • data deficient species


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