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Mumbai researchers discover another new lizard species

Zeeshan Mirza and Rajesh Sanap have discovered a new species of gecko, Hemidactylus acanthopholis, which resembles a lizard from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu

Their love for the creepy-crawly gecko species has earned Mumbai researchers, Zeeshan Mirza and Rajesh Sanap of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore, another feather in their caps.

After being part of a team which, last year, discovered a rare new gecko species Cnemaspis Girii from the Western Ghats in Maharashtra, the duo are on a roll with their latest discovery of a new species of gecko, which resembles a lizard from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu.

Zeeshan Mirza Rajesh Sanap
Zeeshan Mirza (left) and Rajesh Sanap and their latest discovery

Christened Hemidactylus acanthopholis, the new species got this name due to the large keeled tubercles (round nodule, warty outgrowth) on its back.

According to the researchers, the gecko was spotted in the collection of the National History Museum, London when Mirza and Sanap visited the place for a research visit last year. After comparing the specimen with data from known species, they found out that the species is indeed distinct and deserves a name.

After returning to India, they extensively researched on the subject and referred to literature reviews and information from museum catalogues which eventually resulted in the discovery of several more specimens in the collection of the Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai; Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata and Californian Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.

The duo also collected data from all specimens across these museums and submitted a manuscript to Taprobanica: The Journal of Asian Biodiversity, which got published in this week’s issue of the journal.

Speaking to mid-day Mirza said, “The newly discovered gecko species belongs to the Hemidactylus maculatus species complex which are large rock dwelling species mostly found on large boulders, caves and forts and are said to be spread across the Western Ghats. Present research hints that more new species await scientific discovery in India.”

The newly discovered species discovered grows up to a length of 20-23cm and sports a brown shade with dark undulating dark bands on its back. Hemidactylus acanthopholis is currently found in Kallidaikurichi, Banatheertham, Courtallam and eastern dry zone of Kalakkad Mundanthirai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu.

Commenting on the new discovery Sanap said, “India is rich in its reptilian diversity but the majority of it still remains undocumented and hence extensive countrywide surveys must be undertaken.” Mirza and Rajesh Sanap plan to continue with their research and documentation as they feel that many people are not aware of the reptilian diversity in our country.

Earlier discovery
Zeeshan Mirza and Rajesh Sanap were part of a team of researchers which had discovered the new species of gecko, Cnemaspis girii, from the Western Ghats of Maharashtra last year. It was named after herpetologist Dr Varad Giri of the Bombay Natural History Society last month.

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