While some species may form by genetic divergence without showing any morphological differences from their ancestor, other often show subtle or obvious morphological differences that may be quite easy to detect. The latter is the case with the collard treerunners.
Some had as few as 92 scales around the body while others had 202 scales around the body. Some adult males have yellow heads while other have red heads, some have distinctive patterns of spots while others have transverse bands.
Unraveling cryptic species is important for a more complete understanding of biodiversity, evolution, and for long term conservation efforts.
The take home message here is that there are many more species of squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes) in the world than previously thought, and it is likely many species have and will disappeared before science is even aware of them. Cutting forests and draining swamps undoubtedly causes extinctions of the species depending upon those habitats. While none of the treerunners described in this paper are likely to be threatened with extinction this discovery and many other similar recent discoveries suggest our knowledge of biodiversity is lacking.
|Contact: John C. Murphy|