PhD on caecilians and Seychelles Tree Frog completed
Simon Maddock, a PhD student from University College London and the Natural History Museum, London, has recently completed his doctoral thesis on the evolution of the Seychelles Tree Frog and Seychelles caecilian species. During his field work Simon collaborated with SIF to undertake research at the Vallée de Mai.
Titled ‘Systematics and Phylogeography of Seychelles Amphibians’, Simon’s PhD thesis investigated the evolution of the seven species of caecilian amphibians in Seychelles and the Seychelles Tree Frog across the granitic islands of the Seychelles. Much of Simon’s research focussed on the distribution and population size of these species as well as looking for potentially new species. Simon and his colleagues visited the Vallée de Mai during three separate field research seasons between 2013 and 2015. During these trips they were excited to discover the caecilian Grandisonia alternans in the Vallée de Mai, which is the first verified record of this species on Praslin. Simon and his colleagues also worked closely with Charles Morel from the Natural History Museum Seychelles. Charles was designated as the caecilian fellow under the ZSL EDGE project and has been working to improve the knowledge and awareness of this group of species in Seychelles.
For some of his research Simon used genetic data from historical museum specimens of Seychelles caecilian species at the Natural History Museum, London and the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. This research uncovered some significant genetic and morphological separation amongst and within the currently classified caecilian species. This indicated that there could be new undescribed species but further research is needed to confirm this status.
Although the Seychelles Tree Frog showed a variety of different colour patterns across the different islands of Seychelles, Simon found that it had conflicting genetic and morphological variation. This data suggests that the differences in colouration between islands does not represent the evolutionary history of the species, but instead seems to be more linked with environmental factors during their development.
Work on the Seychelles caecilians is still ongoing by Simon and his colleagues, but the discovery of distinct evolutionary patterns sheds an interesting light on the generation and maintenance of diversity within the Seychelles. It is clear that there is still much more to be learned about the evolution of the endemic caecilians, especially the true extent of their diversity within the Seychelles.
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- Simon during his fieldwork digging for caecilians © S Maddock
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- A Grandisonia sechellensis caecilian found in the Vallée de Mai with an egg clutch © S Maddock
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