Sara Lopes | October 31, 2014 - 15h20 | CIBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão




Geological and paleoclimatic events are two main forces driving evolutionary processes in nature. These are poorly studied phenomena in North Africa, despite its great diversity of habitats, heterogeneous landscapes, and complex climatic and geological histories. Modern biodiversity patterns of the Sahara and the adjacent arid Sahel likely resulted from strong oscillations in climate and land-cover. Acanthodactylus scutellatus species group comprises important elements of the herpetofauna of arid ecosystems in North Africa, and well adapted to xeric conditions. Despite their remarkable diversity, the taxonomy within the complex is controversial, and with the exception of morphological data, little is known about these organisms. Observations of morphologically intermediate individuals in sympatry areas suggested hybridization between taxa. The present study aims to infer: 1) phylogenetic relationships within this group and identify major lineages; and 2) contemporary gene flow in a contact zone in Mauritania. The molecular tools applied allowed for insights on the species boundaries, relationships, history and diversity of this group, in addition to contributing to the knowledge about gene flow in the Sahara-Sahel.


Sara Lopes graduated in Biology from the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra (Portugal). Sara worked a few months analysing sonograms of Miliaria calandra in order to study the dialects of this species in Alentejo (Portugal), at the Laboratory of Ethology in Coimbra. Presently, she is especially interested in studying diversity, biogeography and evolutionary processes, using amphibians and reptiles as models. She is currently finishing her Master’s degree in Biodiversity, Genetics and Evolution at CIBIO/FCUP, under the supervision of José Carlos Brito and Guillermo Velo-Antón. Her thesis focused the evolution of a group of the dry-adapted lizards in North Africa (Acanthodactylus scutellatus species group).


Image credits: Zbyszek Boratynski