© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.
Mitotic and meiotic chromosomes of 5 species of the reptile genus Gonatodes are described by means of conventional staining, banding analyses and in situ hybridization using a synthetic telomeric DNA probe. The amount, location and fluorochrome affinities of constitutive heterochromatin, the number and positions of nucleolus organizer regions, and the patterns of telomeric DNA sequences were determined for most of the species. The karyotypes of G. falconensis and G. taniae from northern Venezuela are distinguished by their extraordinarily reduced diploid chromosome number of 2n = 16, which is the lowest value found so far in reptiles. In contrast to most other reptiles, both species have exclusively large biarmed (meta- and submetacentric) chromosomes. Comparison of the karyotypes of G. falconensis and G. taniae with those of other Gonatodes species indicates that the exceptional 2n = 16 karyotype originated by a series of 8 centric fusions. The karyotypes of G. falconensis and G. taniae are further characterized by the presence of considerable amounts of (TTAGGG)n telomeric sequences in the centromeric regions of all chromosomes. These are probably not only relics of the centric fusion events, but a component of the highly repetitive DNA in the constitutive heterochromatin of the chromosomes. The genome sizes of 4 Gonatodes species were determined using flow cytometry. For comparative purposes, all previously published cytogenetic data on Gonatodes and other sphaerodactylids are included and discussed.