Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Article
Published: 2008-02-18
Page range: 40–50
Abstract views: 77
PDF downloaded: 1

A new Nactus gecko (Gekkonidae) and a new Leiolopisma skink (Scincidae) from La Reunion, Indian Ocean, based on recent fossil remains and ancient DNA sequence

Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
Reptiles et Amphibiens, Systématique et Évolution, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, 75005 Paris, France
Reptilia Nactus Leiolopisma La Réunion ancient DNA cytochrome b 12S rRNA


Two new lizards from La Réunion island, southwest Indian Ocean, are described on the basis of fragmentary subfossil material, and their distinctiveness and relationships are confirmed from ancient mitochondrial DNA extracted from these remains. The gecko Nactus soniae n. sp. is related to N. coindemerensis of Mauritius, while the skink Leiolopisma ceciliae n..sp. .has affinities with L. telfairii and L. mauritiana from the same island. As with other La Réunion reptiles known to date, mitochondrial DNA phylogenies indicate that both the new forms colonized this island from Mauritius. Molecular clock considerations suggest that colonisations took place over 1My ago and that the new species, together with Phelsuma day geckos, survived the massive volcanic eruptions that took place on La Réunion 180000-230000 years ago.


  1. Arnold, E.N. (1980) Recently extinct reptile populations from Mauritius and Réunion, Indian Ocean. Journal of Zoology, London, 191, 33–47.

    Arnold, E.N. (2000) Using fossils and phylogenies to understand evolution of reptile communities on islands. Bonner zoologische Monographien, 46, 309–323.

    Arnold, E.N. & Jones, C.J. (1994) The night geckos of the genus Nactus in the Mascarene islands with a description of the distinctive population on Round island. Dodo, 30, 119–131.

    Austin, J.J. & Arnold, E.N. (2001) Ancient mitochondrial DNA and morphology elucidate an extinct island radiation of Indian Ocean giant tortoises (Cylindraspis). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 268, 2515–2523.

    Austin, J.J., Arnold, E.N. & Bour, R. (2002) The provenance of type specimens of extinct Mascarene Island giant tortoises (Cylindraspis) revealed by ancient mitochondrial DNA sequences. Journal of Herpetology, 36, 280–285.

    Austin, J.J. & Arnold, E.N. (2006) Using ancient and recent DNA to explore relationships of extinct and endangered Leiolopisma skinks (Reptilia: Scincidae) in the Mascarene islands. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 39, 503–511.

    Austin, J.J., Arnold, E.N. & Jones, C.G. (2004) Reconstructing an island radiation using ancient and recent DNA: the extinct and living day geckos (Phelsuma) of the Mascarene islands. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 31, 109–122.

    Bour, R. (1981) Histoire de la tortue terrestre de Bourbon. Bulletin de l’Académie de l’Ile de la Réunion. Saint-Denis, 25, 98–147.

    Cheke, A.S. (1987) An ecological history of the Mascarene Islands, with particular reference to extinctions and introductions of land vertebrates. In Diamond, A.W. (ed.) Mascarene Island Birds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 5–89.

    Cowles, G.S. (1987) The fossil record. In Diamond, A. W. (ed.) Mascarene Island Birds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 90–100.

    McDougall, I. (1971) The geochronology and evolution of the young volcanic island of Réunion, Indian Ocean. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, London, 35, 261–268.

    McDougall, I. & Chamaloun, F.H. (1969) Isotopic dating and geomagnetic polarity studies on volcanic rocks from Mauritius, Indian Ocean. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 80, 1419–1442.

    Mourer-Chauviré, C., Bour, R., Ribes, S. & Moutou, F. (1999) The avifauna of Réunion Island (Mascarene Islands) at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans. In Olson, S. L. (ed.) Avian paleontology at the close of the 20th century: Proceedings of the 4th International Meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Washington, D. C., 4–7 June 1996. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, 89,1–38.

    Moutou, F. (1980) Enquête sur la faune murine dans le département de La Réunion. DDASS, Saint-Denis.

    Probst, J.M. (1997) Animaux de La Réunion. Azalées Editions, Sainte-Marie, La Réunion, pp.1–167.

    Probst, J.M. & Brial, P. (2002) Récits anciens de naturalistes à l’île Bourbon. Association Nature et Patrimoine, Le Port, La Réunion, pp.1–112.

    Vinson, A. (1871) [Letter dated 1870 to L. Bouton on “Agama versicolor”]. Transactions of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius, N. S., 5, 31–34.