Despite extensive progress in species discovery and documentation during recent decades, the discovery and analysis of biodiversity in hotspots, such as the Tropical Andes and Mesoamerica, is still a work in progress. Reptiles in South and Mesoamerica are among the least known groups of vertebrates. For example, nearly 100 new species of reptiles have been described from Ecuador and Peru in the 21st century alone. Phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data has improved our ability in identifying new species; nonetheless, there is still a large number of Neotropical reptilian groups whose diversity and evolutionary history remains poorly explored. One of them is the lizard genus Polychrus, commonly known as bush anoles or Neotropical false chameleons, of which only seven species have been recognized. Recently we discovered and described a new species (Koch et al. 2011), augmenting the number of recognized species in this genus to seven. This study will explore the diversity and evolutionary history of Neotropical false chameleons using DNA sequence data. To achieve this goal we will use a large dataset of genomic samples of all species of Polychrus throughout their distribution. We will use maximum-likelihood and Bayesian methods to infer the phylogeny of Polychrus, which will enable us to identify new species if they exist. These analyses will also allow us to identify how and when these lizards radiated throughout South and Mesoamerica.
Published results from this project:
Torres-Carvajal, O., Koch, C., Venegas, P.J. & Poe, S. (2017) Phylogeny and diversity of neotropical monkey lizards (Iguanidae: Polychrus Cuvier, 1817). PLoS ONE, 12 (6), e0178139.
Koch, C., Venegas, P.J., Garcia-Bravo, A. & Böhme, W. (2011) A new bush anole (Iguanidae: Polychrotinae: Polychrus) from the upper Marañón basin, Peru, with a redescription of Polychrus peruvianus (Noble, 1924) and additional information on P. gutturosus Berthold, 1845. Zookeys, 141, 79–107. http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.141.1678