Meghalaya, June 3: In an exciting new discovery, a team of scientists has found four new species of geckos (Cyrtodactylus), two each in Meghalaya and Mizoram. The new species are a part of the Cyrtodactylus khasiensis group.
The one discovered in Meghalaya is the Karst-dwelling bent-toed geckos, Cyrtodactylus karsticola, and Cyrtodactylus agarwali.
The name Cyrtodactylus karsticolais is dedicated to the habitat from which this species was discovered while Cyrtodactylus agarwali has been named after Ishan Agarwal, one of India’s leading herpetologists.
Karst habitat literally means limestone areas; and therefore, both the species derive their names accordingly as they were found in the limestone cave habitats in and around Siju village in South Garo Hills.
The detection of such rare kinds highlights the unique biogeography and steep terrain, often associated with limestone areas that have resulted in the evolution of specialized Karst endemic biodiversity.
In fact, new species are regularly being uncovered in these Karst habitats of Southeast Asia as opposed to the Karst landscape of Northeast India, where it is still relatively under-explored in terms of herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians).
Researchers of this study have indicated that the presence of these distinctive beings is directly related to thriving limestone. In Meghalaya, limestone is the second most extracted resource after coal; and accounts for approximately 9% of the total Indian reserve. However, over the years, large-scale commercial and unregulated private mining activities have been causal factors of deforestation in the state and thereby contributing to the loss of many endemic and threatened species along with those still unknown to science.
Apart from the two newly discovered species during a two-day visit to Siju, the team of researchers also encountered 48 species of amphibians and reptiles, which further emphasizes the importance of the Karst landscape in the mineral-rich district.
In Mizoram, the species have been named Aaron Bauer’s bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus aaronbaueri) documented from in and around Aizawl and Bengkhuaia’s bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus bengkhuaiai) recorded from the outskirts of Sailam village in Aizawl District.
The former has been named in honour of Aaron Bauer, the world’s leading expert on the taxonomy of gecko lizards while the latter was named after Bengkhuaia, a Mizo chieftain who fought the mighty British forces 150 years ago.
The authors of the study are Jayaditya Purkayastha and Sanath C. Bohra of Guwahati-based Help Earth; HT Lalremsanga of Mizoram University’s Department of Zoology and his research team comprising Lal Biakzuala, HT Decemson, Lal Muansanga and Mathipi Vabeiryureilai; Colonel Yashpal Singh Rathee of Umroi Military Station in Meghalaya; and Suraj Chauhan of the University of Hyderabad.
The joint study found space in the latest edition of Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed scientific mega journal for animal taxonomists published by Magnolia Press from Auckland, New Zealand.