A previously unknown species of gecko has been discovered in the mountains of southern India. The gecko, named Cnemaspis rashidi or Rashid’s dwarf gecko, was found at a private estate in Tamil Nadu during a wildlife survey in 2015. Researchers noticed four brightly colored geckos on the property and upon closer examination, realized they had stumbled upon a new species.
Rashid’s dwarf gecko is considered medium-sized, reaching up to about 4.3 inches in length. It has pointed spikes scattered across its body, curved claws, and its most distinctive feature is its vibrant coloring. Male geckos have a bright yellow head with brown-black lines and blotches, while the rest of their bodies are a mosaic of black and white patches. Their tails have alternating black and white bands, giving them a striped appearance. Female geckos, on the other hand, have a brown coloring with dull-white markings and spots.
The geckos were found around the rock boulders and walls of the private estate, and they are most active during the day. They are restricted to higher elevations of about 4,100 feet. So far, Rashid’s dwarf gecko has only been found at the Kottamalai estate in Tamil Nadu, which is located about 1,500 miles south of New Delhi.
The new species was named after Rashid Sayyed, the father of the study’s lead co-author, Amit Sayyed. The identification of the species was based on its size, coloring, scale patterns, and spikes. DNA analysis revealed that the new species has between 9.5% and 30% genetic divergence from other species of dwarf gecko.
The research team involved in the discovery included Amit Sayyed, Samson Kirubakaran, Rahul Khot, Thanigaivel A., Satheeshkumar M., Ayaan Sayyed, Masum Sayyed, Jayaditya Purkayastha, Shubhankar Deshpande, and Shauri Sulakhe.
This discovery highlights the rich biodiversity of India and the importance of conducting thorough wildlife surveys to uncover new species. The Rashid’s dwarf gecko adds to the growing list of unique creatures found in the country’s diverse ecosystems.