“The gekkonid genus Gekko contains morphologically diverse lizards represented by 86 species distributed across South and Southeast Asia,” said lead author Zeeshan Mirza, a Ph.D. student at the Max Planck Institute for Biology, and his colleagues from Mizoram University.
“The genus comprises members with fascinating adaptations like elaborate skin flaps to facilitate gliding members of the subgenus Ptychozoon.”
“Commonly known as parachute geckos, Ptychozoon geckos are nocturnal, arboreal creatures with a lifestyle that revolves around crypsis and paragliding from one tree to another.”
“The structure of dipterocarp forests has been hypothesized as a driver of paragliding among certain Southeast Asian geckos, agamas, snakes and other vertebrates.”
“Despite their high degree of morphological adaptation, these geckos were found to be phylogenetically embedded within the genus Gekko and are currently treated as a subgenus, Ptychozoon.”
“It contains 13 species, however, with further study more species are likely to be discovered throughout its range.”
“In nearly all species of this subgenus, camouflage is enhanced by enlarged skin flaps along the head, body, limbs and tail, preventing the casting of shadows outlining the body while perched motionlessly on the substrate.”
In their research, Mirza and co-authors studied the Indian population of the parachute gecko (Gekko lionotum).
Their morphology and molecular data suggested that the population represents a distinct species.
Scientifically named Gekko mizoramensis, the new species differs from all other members of the genus Gekko — other than the subgenus Ptychozoon — in bearing membranes along the forelimbs, trunk and hind limbs.
It also differs from all other Ptychozoon species by exhibiting a unique combination of characters.
“The type specimens were collected only from the Lawngtlai town area, particularly during the monsoon season (April to October) in the Mizoram state,” the scientists said.
“However, this species is not only known from the type locality, but was also encountered in various other areas in Mizoram during the survey period.”
“All individuals were discovered and collected at heights of approximately 150 to 360 cm above the ground or floor.”
“Being nocturnal, they were observed active from the onset of dusk and hunted or ambushed their prey of beetles, roaches, moths and other insects attracted by light sources.”
“All collected individuals remained motionless if not disturbed; however, they then responded aggressively, attempting to bite when handled.”
“The habitat lies within a largely anthropogenic settlement with small scattered patches of homestead gardens, surrounded by moderately disturbed secondary tropical evergreen forest.”
The authors suggest that the new species should also be considered Data Deficient according to the criteria of the IUCN due to the fact that it is rarely encountered and very little is known about its natural history.
“The discovery of Gekko mizoramensis is not surprising as northeastern India is rich in herpetofaunal diversity but poorly explored,” they concluded.
“The discovery of several new reptile species from across northeastern India in the last five years warrants dedicated efforts to document the region’s biodiversity.”
The team’s work was published in the journal SALAMANDRA.
Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga et al. 2023. A new species of Parachute Gecko of the subgenus Ptychozoon (Sauria: Gekkonidae: Gekko) from the Indo-Burma region. SALAMANDRA 59 (2): 125-135
This article by Natali Anderson was first published by Sci.News on 4 July 2023. Lead Image: The Mizoram parachute gecko (Gekko mizoramensis). Image credit: Lal Muansanga.
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