Snake eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus spp.)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 14058475
Cryptic Crypto's: Taxonomic assessment to identify species diversity and prevent further species loss in Cryptoblepharus skinks
In order to protect biodiversity, it is essential to effectively identify and describe species. This is a pressing need, especially in neglected genera where species that have been identified, are prone to extinction. My research focuses on a diverse lizard genus, Cryptoblepharus, with a unique distribution including multiple continents and island archipelagoes. Notwithstanding their fascinating distribution, their true diversity has long been underestimated, as recently illustrated by a taxonomic revision of Australian taxa alone that yielded 18 new species. The urgency of such taxonomic assessments is critical, because if cryptic taxa are not identified in time, supposed ‘population’ decline of ‘widespread’ species will actually confer the unrecorded loss of small range endemics. Cryptoblepharus egeriae for example, an endemic species on Christmas Island, was recently announced to be nearly extinct in its native range (Smith et al., 2012). Such cases illustrate the urge for a thorough taxonomic assessment to prevent the further, potentially hidden, loss of species. I here propose a comprehensive taxonomic investigation across the distribution of the entire Cryptoblepharus genus, to identify true species diversity, but with a specific focus on isolated Pacific island populations, similar to C. egeriae, due to their particular sensitivity for habitat disturbance.
With the help of the Mohamed Bin Zayed fund for species conservation, I will conduct targeted sampling across French Polynesia and thereby complete our sampling across most of the genus' distribution. After completing this study we will be able to better assess species diversity, infer relationships among lineages and ultimately advise local Pacific island councils about the relative uniqueness of their herpetofauna. During our fieldwork, from 19/05/2015 to 20/06/2015, I will continually update a field journal on my website (www.mozesblom.com/updates/), so you can follow me in the field! Also please feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to answer all your questions!!
Project 14058475 location - French Polynesia, Oceania