Tejas Thackeray, team finds new gecko species in Western Ghats

Updated: Jun 25, 2020, 19:31 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

The team discovered a new large-bodied, rupicolous Dwarf gecko from the Western Ghats of Karnataka. Their study was published a few days ago in 'Zootaxa', a scientific journal

Tejas Thackeray
Tejas Thackeray

In another finding that highlights the importance of protecting the Western ghats, a team of researchers along with Tejas Thackeray discovered a new large-bodied, rupicolous Dwarf gecko from the Western Ghats of Karnataka. Their study was published a few days ago in 'Zootaxa', a scientific journal.

The team of researchers includes Akshay Khandekar, who is lead and corresponding author, Tejas Thackeray (second author), Saunak Pal (third author), and Ishan Agarwal (senior author).

Akshay-Khandekar
Akshay Khandekar

Talking to mid-day, Akshay Khandekar said, "Dwarf geckos belong to the Genus Cnemaspis, and are the oldest Indian squamates (snakes and lizards) that originated around 50 million years ago from the Western Ghats. These geckos can be easily distinguished from all other Indian geckos by their round pupil (rest all gecko species found in the country have vertical pupil). Unlike other Indian geckos, which are nocturnal, most of the geckos of genus Cnemaspis are diurnal (active during the day) and that's why they are also called as Day geckos."

It may be noted that there are about 50 species reported under this genus, and are inhabited in Western Ghats, Mysore Plateau, some parts of Eastern Ghats, Assam and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Their main diet is insects.

Cnemaspis magnifica
Cnemaspis magnifica. Pic/Ishan Agarwal

"We first saw this gecko in 2014 among the vertical rocks near Sakleshpur in Karnataka. We thought it could be a new species to science but couldn't work on it because of lack of comparative material on already discovered and closely related species of this genus from the Western Ghats. In June 2018, we conducted fieldwork across the Western Ghats targeting the type localities (precise locality from where the species has been discovered) and managed to collect topotypic samples (specimens collected from respective type localities of species) for comparative study (for morphological and genetic comparisons). When we finished our lab work, which includes morphological and genetic studies, we realised that the gecko species near Sakleshpur is, in fact, new to science," added Khandekar.

In February 2019, these researchers submitted a detailed manuscript on this new species to an international journal called 'Zootaxa' and it was published a few days ago.

The new species is named as 'Cnemaspis magnifica'. The name 'magnifica' is derived from the Latin magnifico (magnificent) and is given to this species for its large size and conspicuous colour pattern. The common English name for this gecko is 'Magnificent dwarf gecko'.

Ishan Agarwal
Ishan Agarwal, Senior Author

According to researchers, the gecko is an endemic, rock-dwelling species and found only on vertical rock faces around Sakleshpur. Interestingly, unlike most of the other members of the genus, this gecko is nocturnal. It is one of the largest species (58 mm length) of the dwarf gecko reported from India. The new species can be easily distinguished from other species of the genus by its large size, lack of spine-like tubercles on the flanks, and a number of femoral pores in males. The new species is 9.1 percent divergent in uncorrected ND2 sequences (DNA data) from its closely related species called Cnemaspis heteropholis.

In the same paper, the researchers also provided valuable data on morphology, distribution, and natural history of a poorly known species called Cnemaspis heteropholis which is only known from three localities (< 35 km) in the Western Ghats of Karnataka and Goa.

Affiliations

  • Akshay and Ishan work for Thackeray Wildlife Foundation (TWF), Mumbai, as well as National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore.
  • Tejas Thackeray works for Thackeray Wildlife Foundation (TWF), Mumbai.
  • Saunak Pal works for Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai.

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