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Type: Article
Published: 2023-11-16
Page range: 263-294
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On the sand and among the crowds: a new species of Woodworthia gecko (Reptilia: Diplodactylidae) from Auckland, Aotearoa/ New Zealand

Bioresearches (Babbage Consultants Ltd.); Level 4; 68 Beach Road; Auckland 1010; New Zealand
School of Environmental and Animal Sciences; Te Pukenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology; Private Bag 92025; Auckland 1142; New Zealand
Independent herpetologist; Onehunga; Auckland
151 Woodburn Drive; Takapu Valley; Wellington 5028
Reptilia Taxonomy Te Oneone Rangatira/ Muriwai Beach duneland Woodhill Oaia Island conservation Woodworthia korowai sp. nov.

Abstract

Woodworthia is a diverse genus of diplodactylid geckos found in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, with 17 likely species. Despite this diversity, only two species have been formally described: Woodworthia maculata (Gray, 1845) and W. chrysosiretica (Robb, 1980). In this paper, we use an integrated taxonomic approach to describe a new species of Woodworthia gecko, Woodworthia korowai sp. nov., found along the western coastline of the Auckland Region, New Zealand. Although this species occurs in duneland habitat behind a popular beach near New Zealand’s most populated city, it was only recognised as a distinct taxon in 2016. We describe W. korowai sp. nov. based on a suite of morphological character states and substantial genetic divergence, based on the mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2) gene, that distinguish it from W. maculata sensu stricto and all other known species of Woodworthia. Phylogenetic reconstruction and molecular dating place it sister to the W. maculata group, with an estimated time of divergence in the mid to late Pliocene. This gecko is one of the most geographically restricted of all Woodworthia geckos, occupying an area of less than 500 km2 within the Auckland Region. Its narrow range and coastal association make it susceptible to environmental and genetic stochasticity. Furthermore, the popularity and recreational usage of the dune system threaten its habitat. Therefore, we hope that this description will bring attention to the value of coastal environments and the unique and sensitive duneland of Te Korowai-o-Te-Tonga/ South Kaipara Peninsula and Te Oneone Rangatira/ Muriwai Beach in particular and encourage conservation efforts to protect this newly described species and its habitat.

 

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