Journal of Undergraduate Research


phylogeny, flying dragons, Draco maculatus species complex, Aamiedae


Life Sciences




Indo-Burma, comprising most of Mainland Southeast Asia east of India and north of Peninsular Malaysia, is a biodiversity hotspot within Southeast Asia that has been called a contender for the “hottest of hotspots” (Mittermeier, 1999). A remarkable majority of this species diversity remains hidden from human recognition in two areas: (1) undiscovered in natural habitat, and (2) conspicuously masquerading under known taxa. While solutions to the former require continued field work, solutions for the latter require further study of already identified taxa for hidden diversity therein. Indo-Burma is the endemic home to the “spotted flying dragon” (Draco maculatus; Gray, 1845), and includes the entire range for this taxon. A diagnostic character of the genus Draco (Family Agamidae) is their patagia– epithelial membranes supported by elongated thoracic ribs that can be extended voluntarily to generate lift as they glide from one tree to another. This region of the Old World tropics is renowned for discoveries of many new species, yet no study has focused on resolving relationships and species boundaries in D. maculatus. Cryptic species and hidden diversity can be revealed through molecular analyses (Jörger, 2013), and this approach has doubled the known species richness in the genus Draco since 1999 (Honda, 1986; McGuire, 2001). Due to the widespread range of D. maculatus and the color and pattern differentiation among subspecies, we hypothesize that this alleged species is actually a species “complex” currently masquerading under the nomen D. maculatus.

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