New Gecko Species in Galapagos

Meet three new endemic Galapagos gecko species!

Thanks to research by Tropical Herping and Galapagos Science Center under Galapagos National Park Directorate permit PC-54-18, Galápagos has two new gecko species and a third elevated from sub-species to species status!

The UNC Galapagos Leadership Team, conformed by Steve Walsh, Jill Stewart, Phil Page and Katya McKerr, organized a second retreat on December 5, 2019. Over 40 faculty and students attended, including new recruits to the Galapagos Initiative.

Phyllodactylus andysabini lives on Isabela Island and was named for American philanthropist Andy Sabini. This little gecko lays its eggs in mangrove forests.

Phyllodactylus simpsoni lives on Isabela and Fernandina Islands, as well as Cowley and Tortuga Islets. This little gecko was named after Dr. Nigel Simpson, founding member of the Ecuadorian conservation organizations Jocotoco Foundation and Ecominga Foundation.

Previously, scientists thought the third new gecko species was a subspecies. A subspecies is a geographical variation of a species. In many cases, it is difficult for taxonomists to determine whether these differences between populations are simply part of natural variation of a species or if they are evolving separately. When these doubts persist, what the taxonomist usually does is describe a subspecies.

Changing the subspecies category requires information to support that the differences are important enough for these populations to be recognized as a different taxon.

A peculiarity of this change is that the subspecies name becomes that of the species. In this case, the subspecies was called Phyllodactylus galapaguensis marensi, and now that it is recognized as a species, it becomes Phyllodactulus marensi.

This species is nocturnal and has a restricted distribution in the Galapagos (Bartolome, Marchena, Santiago, Rábida, and the Mares islet). Its ecology and natural history are almost unknown. The main threats are introduced species, especially those that can displace them in their habitat (other geckos), as well as predators such as cats.

Let’s take care of our unique species. You can learn more at, including how to order their new book Reptiles of Galapagos.

Credits: José Viera, Tropical Herping

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!