Carranza Lab
Animal Biodiversity and Evolution Programme
Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF)
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Uses of Phylogenies to study evolutionary, ecological and biogeographical processes: the North African and Arabian arid reptile faunas


Deserts comprise about a third of the world’s land surface and are characterized by their aridity. The Sahara, the main arid region in North Africa, is by far the biggest desert in the world, covering some nine million square kilometres, and extending 5500 Km across North Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The Arabian desert occurs to the East of the Sahara and is about an eighth in size. In spite of the harsh environment, endemic floras and faunas of deserts are often quite rich. This raises the question of how such biotas are gained and maintained, something that can be explored using reptiles, one of the commonest kinds of desert inhabitant. In this ongoing project, we are using molecular phylogenies from multiple reptile taxa to address a whole range of evolutionary, ecological and biogeographic questions. The main objectives of the project are: 1.- to understand how deserts gain and maintain their endemic faunas; 2.- to infer the age of the Sahara and Arabian deserts; 3.- to compare the diversification rates of several desert lineages, and 4.- to test and improve the current taxonomy of the groups concerned. This project is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Sciencie and Education with project number: CGL2008-00827/BOS.

Ongoing work related to this project

  • Systematics, biogeography and evolution of the geckos of the genus Asaccus, Pristurus and Sthenodactylus.
  • Taxonomic revision of the Arabian geckos of the genus Hemidactylus.
  • Phylogeny and biogeography of the snakes of the genus Cerastes and Echis.


  • Nick Arnold (The Natural History Museum, London, UK)
  • Eulalia Garcia (Museu de Ciencies Naturals de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain)
  • James Harris (CIBIO, Portugal)
  • Jose Brito (CIBIO, Portugal)
  • Soumia Fahd (Departement de Biologie, Faculte des Sciences, Universite Abdelmalek Essaadi, Tetouan, Morocco)
  • Mohsen Kalboussi (Universite de Jendouba, Tunisia)
  • Rachid Rouagh (Centre Universitaire d'El Tarf, Algeria)
  • Philippe Geniez (Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Montpellier, France)
  • Pierre-Andre Crochet (UMR 5175 CEFE, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Montpellier, France)
  • David Donaire (Jerez de la Frontera, Spain)
  • Ed Wade (Middlesex University, V.C.D. Cat Hill, Barnet, Hertfordshire, London, UK)
  • Juan M. Pleguezuelos (Departamento de Biologia Animal, Universidad de Granada, Spain)