CANBERRA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- A sudden drop in global temperatures 35 million years ago caused a mass extinction of geckos in Australia, scientists revealed on Thursday.
Biologists from the Australian National University (ANU) discovered that, at the same time Australia split from Antarctica, a "dramatic" climate change event occurred, causing the mass extinction of the pygopodoid gecko.
The ANU's lead researcher and PhD student Ian Brennan said the team detected the mass extinction of the geckos by using molecular evolutionary methods to examine fossil records.
"The dramatic shift to colder and drier climates likely resulted in rapidly changing Australian habitats, which hugely impacted the animals that inhabited them," Brennan said in a statement on Thursday.
"Our research provides evidence that rapid shifts in climate may have profound and long-lasting effects on global biodiversity."
He said while the mass extinction of the geckos occurred during that dramatic climate change event, the change from arctic to desert-like conditions provided an "ideal habitat" for a "new" species of gecko to prosper.
"Our findings suggest that arid regions of Australia have acted as a cradle for geckos, promoting the rich gecko diversity that is found across the continent," Brennan said.
Colleague and co-researcher Dr Paul Oliver said geckos did well in the "harsh climates" of arid Australia because they avoided the heat by being nocturnal.
"Many desert geckos also have strategies and attributes to avoid water loss, such as having relatively rugged skin and scales," Oliver said.
"The clear scale over the eye, called a spectacle or brille, is one such example of this, as it helps them avoid water loss from the surface of the eye. But that means they can't blink, so they have to lick it clean."
According to the ANU, pygopodoid geckos are a group of around 150 gecko species currently found throughout Australia.