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Archaeological and molecular data have revealed that the present day faunas of many island groups in Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia are not representative of the biodiversity generated within this region on an evolutionary timescale. Erroneous inferences regarding the mechanisms of speciation and the significance of long distance dispersal in shaping the present diversity of these island systems have resulted from this incomplete diversity and distributional data. The lizard fauna east of Samoa has been suggested to derive entirely from human-mediated introductions, a distribution congruent with biogeographic patterns for other Pacific species. Distinguishing between introduced populations and those that result from natural colonization events is difficult, although molecular data provide a useful means for elucidating population history and identifying the likely sources of introductions. We use molecular data (1726 bp of mitochondrial DNA and 286 bp of nuclear DNA) to evaluate a population of arboreal lizards from the Cook Islands and to determine whether this arboreal skink population is the sole endemic component of the lizard fauna east of Samoa or the result of human-mediated introduction. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London.

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Biological Journal of the Linnean Society

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