doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.152 Published online 12 November 2016
Two new species of ground dwelling geckos have been discovered in the Mysore Plateau of Southern India1. These small nocturnal lizards are members of the subgenus Geckoella, endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka, within the genus Cyrtodactylus. The new finds have been named Cyrtodactylus srilekhae and Cyrtodactylus rishivalleyensis.
C. srilekhae, commonly called Bangalore Geckoella, was first spotted in 2007 by Ishan Agarwal, then a graduate student at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, in his Bangalore home. In 2010, a juvenile specimen of C. rishivalleyensis or Rishi valley Geckoella, was found by Agarwal’s IISc colleagues. More samples of both species were collected by the scientists between 2011 and 2015 during their PhD fieldwork.
The Bangalore Geckoella, Agarwal says, can be spotted in forests within 60 km of Bangalore at elevations of 800m to1400m, while the Rishi valley Geckoella is found in an isolated hill range near Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, 1000m above mean sea level.
Agarwal also analysed mitochondrial DNA sequence data of the new species to find that they are genetically divergent from each other and also from known Geckoella species. Analysis of subtle differences in colour patterns and body ratios confirmed their unique identities.
These newly-found geckos are the second and third species of Geckoella discovered from India since 1885, bringing the number of known Geckoella species to 11. “The long lag in the discovery of these species reflects the lack of emphasis on taxonomy and biodiversity surveys in India, and the use of genetic data combined with systemic sampling,” Agarwal told Nature India.
The discovery of these very divergent lineages in a landscape traditionally not known for high diversity and endemicity, combined with other recent work on Indian dry zone lizards, indicates a promising future for collating biodiversity patterns in peninsular India. “We need more surveys in the region to see if the Rishi valley Geckoella is truly a point endemic, or is distributed in some nearby mountains,” Agarwal says.
1. Agarwal, I. Two new species of ground-dwelling Cyrtodactylus (Geckoella) from the Mysore Plateau, south India. Zootaxa 4193 (2016) doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4193.2.2