Reptilian Mess! Definitive Classification of Israel’s Reptiles

Reptiles are the second largest class of terrestrial vertebrate with over 9000 known species worldwide, however, they are the most under-studied relatively to their size. Around 100 reptile species inhabit Israel, occupying diverse niches and include representatives of African, Asian and European taxa, and some endemics. Taxonomic practices and phylogenetic knowledge of Israel's reptiles resulted in taxonomic problems now being associated with ~ 40% of the fauna.

My study aims to resolve some of the more pressing taxonomic and phylogenetic problems by carrying out a thorough and comprehensive revision of Israeli reptiles using a combination of morphological, behavioural and molecular analyses, including aspects of biogeography and phylogeography. This project combines fieldwork, common-garden experiments, laboratory work and natural history museum study. The genetic analysis aims to reconstruct the species-level and sub-specific relationships (phylogeographic) of Israeli reptiles, and track historical biogeography and phylogeography processes. The behavioural analysis includes controlled breeding experiments for taxa that are suspected as either over- or under-split; these will be used as evidence of reproductive isolation against species rank according to the biological species concept. The morphological analysis aims to resolve relationships by combining traditional and modern morphological taxonomic methods as a way to achieve comprehensive and accurate descriptions and classifications of the reptile species.

This study includes and combines several aspects of taxonomic analyses in order to gain an updated and adequate taxonomic classification of the Israeli reptilian fauna, and will compose an important and up-to-date database useful to all. Clear taxonomic definitions will also allow us to create a more relevant picture of the biodiversity of this class in Israel.