Researchers have described a cryptic new species in the spiny-tailed gecko genus Strophurus from inland areas of southern Western Australia.
Strophurus is a genus of lizards in Diplodactylidae, a family in the suborder Gekkota.
The genus contains around 20 recognized species, all endemic to Australia.
Also known as spiny-tailed or striped geckos, they are small, nocturnal reptiles, with a length between 3.5 to 9 cm (1.4-3.5 inches).
All Strophurus species have a unique defense mechanism — they possess a series of caudal glands that they use in stress situations, secreting a harmless, foul-smelling fluid when contracting the tail musculature. This fluid is used to deter birds while they are perching in shrubbery.
They tend to have small spines or tubercles, especially on the tail.
Several species have small but distinct spines above their very attractive eyes.
“We present an unexpected discovery of a cryptic species previously assigned to Strophurus assimilis in the course of a broadscale survey of genetic variation in the genus,” said Dr. Ross Sadlier from the Australian Museum Research Institute and colleagues.
Named Strophurus spinula (common name is the lesser thorn-tailed gecko), the new species has a length of 6.1 cm (2.4 inches).
“It can be distinguished from other members of the genus by a combination of several characters such as a relatively straight and discontinuous row of enlarged unicolored tubercles along the dorsolateral margin of the body; and a tail with a single row of enlarged unicolored spines on either side of the original tail,” the scientists said.
Strophurus spinula is found largely within the southern woodlands region of Western Australia.
“Most of the distribution of Strophurus spinula lies within the southern part of the mulga (Acacia aneura) woodlands of Western Australia, extending peripherally into adjacent vegetation types in the south of its range,” the authors said.
“Its distribution broadly overlaps with Strophurus strophurus, though the latter is more widespread, and to a lesser extent in the east of its range with Strophurus wellingtonae.”
The discovery is reported in a paper in the Records of the Western Australian Museum.
Ross A. Sadlier et al. 2023. A new species of spiny-tailed gecko (Squamata: Diplodactylidae: Strophurus) from the mulga woodlands of inland Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 38: 011-026; doi: 10.18195/issn.0312-38 3162.38.2023.011-026
This article by Natali Anderson was first published by Sci News on 29 May 2023. Lead Image: Two individuals of the lesser thorn-tailed gecko (Strophurus spinula) from Mt Gibson in Western Australia: (A) and (D) aspects of the whole body and the straight-line and broken arrangement of tubercles along the dorsolateral axis of the body; (B) the head; (C) arrangement of enlarged spines along the tail. Image credit: Anders Zimny / Ray Lloyd.
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.