Gliding morphologies occur in diverse vertebrate lineages in Southeast Asian rainforests, including three gecko genera, plus frogs, snakes, agamid lizards and squirrels. It has been hypothesized that repeated evolution of gliding is related to the dominance of Asian rainforest tree floras by dipterocarps. For dipterocarps to have influenced the evolution of gliding in Southeast Asian vertebrates, gliding lineages must have Eocene or later origins. However, divergence times are not known for most lineages. To investigate the temporal pattern of Asian gliding vertebrate evolution, we performed phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses. New sequence data for geckos incorporate exemplars of each gliding genus (Cosymbotus, Luperosaurus and Ptychozoon), whereas analyses of other vertebrate lineages use existing sequence data. Stem ages of most gliding vertebrates, including all geckos, cluster in the time period when dipterocarps came to dominate Asian tropical forests. These results demonstrate that a gliding/dipterocarp correlation is temporally viable, and caution against the assumption of early origins for apomorphic taxa.
Keywords: volant, parachuting, Sundaland, phylogeny, Reptilia, Mammalia
Matthew P. Heinicke, Eli Greenbaum, Todd R. Jackman and Aaron M. Bauer. 2012. Evolution of Gliding in Southeast Asian Geckos and Other Vertebrates is Temporally Congruent with Dipterocarp Forest Development. Biol. Lett. 1–4. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2012.0648