WASHINGTON, May 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. researchers have discovered a new family of gecko, which will have implications for technology and environment.
Researchers from University of Minnesota and Villanova University reported Thursday that they have named the new family "Phyllodactylidae," referring to the leaf-shaped toes of many of the species in this group (phyllo meaning "leaf" and dactyl meaning "toe").
The new family consists of 103 species found in semiarid and tropical regions of North Africa, the Middle East, North and South America and the Caribbean.
Scientists have long been interested in geckos and their evolution because they are key biodiversity indicators and are found on nearly every continent. They are also interested in the gecko because of the animal's sticky toe pads, which allow them to scale rough and smooth surfaces -- a characteristic that may have human application in medicine, emergency rescue service and military industries.
The research team also sequenced DNA from 44 species of gecko and used this genetic data to reconstruct the animals' family tree. The resulting new classification is different from previous classifications, which are based solely on foot structure.
"A classification based solely on foot structure will track selective pressure on the feet and not represent actual evolutionary history," said Tony Gamble from University of Minnesota, who believes their discovery will add to a more accurate gecko family tree that, in turn, will allow scientists to better understand how sticky toe pads have evolved.
The study will be published in the forthcoming issue of Zoological Scripta.