Species whose geographical distribution encompasses both mainland and island populations provide ideal systems for examining potential isolation and genetic divergence. This has also interest from a conservationist point of view, as it is important to protect “evolutionarily significant units”. We report a phylogenetic mitochondrial DNA analysis comparing the populations of the three Chalcides skink species from the Chafarinas Islands (NW Africa) with specimens of the same species from the nearest mainland. We tested for the potential genetic distinctiveness of the skink island populations. However, the results of the comparison of the genetic variability of the mitochondrial coding gene cytb were conclusive showing that the genetic divergence between continental and island Chalcides species was either non-existent or extremely low. We discuss how genetic divergence may be lower than expected if separation time of the islands with the mainland has not been long enough or if the island skink populations were currently communicated via ocean rafting with individuals coming from the mainland ones.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.