Researchers find three new gecko species in Western Ghats

Updated: Jun 06, 2020, 07:46 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

The three new species will shed important light on how the animal kingdom adjusts themselves to climate change

Cnemaspis bangara or the golden banded dwarf gecko
Cnemaspis bangara or the golden banded dwarf gecko

In a yet another important discovery by a team of researchers along with Tejas Thackeray, son of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray have discovered three new species of geckos from Mysore Plateau in Western India.

Their findings were published online on Monday in the 'Journal of Zoological Systematics & Evolutionary Research'.

Speaking to mid-day, Tejas, "We generally, talk about the lush green Western Ghats which are home to several endangered and endemic species. But it's about time we focus on the vast, dry zone which comprises the rest of peninsular India and includes a number of unique landscapes. The Mysore plateau is characterised by massive granite boulder systems, which creates a suitable home for creatures to survive without being exposed to the deadly heat. These zones are the region South Asian Cnemaspis (geckos) are known to inhabit."

"The isolation of geckos in these boulder systems across different hill ranges may have triggered evolution and over the course of time, different populations diverged into different species endemic to their particular boulder systems.

Cnemaspis yelagiriensis or the Yelagiri dwarf geckoCnemaspis yelagiriensis or the Yelagiri dwarf gecko

Our upcoming publications will reveal a wide plethora of gecko diversity from these areas with some important data to make us understand that only landscapes that look lush are not important," he added.

The new species were discovered in granite boulder habitats on the southern edge of the Mysore plateau by a team including which comprised of scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Thackeray Wildlife Foundation and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore.

According to the study's lead author, Dr Ishan Agarwal, "Each of the three new species have been named for different aspects of colouration, habitat or geographic location: Cnemaspis bangara or the golden banded dwarf gecko is named for its yellow tail tip and that the type locality of the species is 30 km from the largest gold mine in India.

Kolar Gold Fields — Cnemaspis graniticola or the Horsley dwarf gecko is named for the granite boulders on which it lives and Cnemaspis yelagiriensis or the Yelagiri dwarf gecko is named for its locality type — Yelagiri in Tamil Nadu."

Cnemaspis graniticola or the Horsley dwarf gecko
Cnemaspis graniticola or the Horsley dwarf gecko 

The Horsley dwarf gecko is the first endemic Cnemaspis from Andhra Pradesh, the golden banded is the fifth from Karnataka and the Yelagiri dwarf gecko is the seventh from Tamil Nadu.

Findings from the study include that South Asian Cnemaspis is the oldest reptile group in India and originated in the Western Ghats well over 50 million years ago and that the three new species turn out to be members of a novel clade (or group) that has been isolated from other members of the genus for over 15 to as much as 25 million years.

"The discovery of these new species also gives us insights into how different groups have coped with climate change — which can also inform us about the effects of future change. The discovery of the three new species and this deeply divergent group highlights the importance of these granite boulder habitats on the Mysore plateau and adds to a growing list of endemic rupicolous (or rock-living) geckos known from the region," added Agarwal.

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