Arunachal Pradesh, Jan 30: A team of researchers has discovered Cyrtodactylus arunachalensis, a new species of bent-toed gecko from Arunachal Pradesh. The species is widespread across the Dafla and Mishmi hills, occurring at elevations ranging from 179 m to 1400 m. The new species is named after the state in which it was discovered.
This is the fourth reptile species (three snakes and one gecko) described from Arunachal Pradesh from the herpetological expedition from June 25 to August 5, 2019, and led by the team, including Zeeshan A Mirza from National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, Harshal Bhosale, and Mandar Sawant from Bombay Natural History Society, Faizan Ansari from Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Mamallapuram, Pushkar Phansalkar from Pune, Gaurang Gowande from Abasaheb Garware College, Pune and Harshil Patel from Veer Narmad South Gujarat University.
Zeeshan said the discovery highlights the need for further herpetological investigations into the region. “Since my college days, I always wanted to go to Arunachal Pradesh on a field trip. Every species that we saw there was never seen before. While discovering one new snake is always tricky, we used the lockdown effectively in documenting all the research work”.
Additional species will likely be discovered with dedicated fieldwork. Most species of the genus are narrowly distributed. Arunachal Pradesh is among the least explored states in northeast India for its herpetofauna diversity and especially in the case of the genus Cyrtodactylus.
These geckos are strictly nocturnal and are found usually around rocky areas or under culverts and were found during the fieldwork conducted by Harshal, Mandar, Pushkar, Gaurang, and Zeeshan. Most members of this group look quite similar and hence a close look is necessary to separate species and in many cases, comparison of DNA sequences is necessary to confirm identification.
The team since then has been working on comparing the morphology and DNA of the species of gecko with related species. Faizan Ansari then a student of Bhavans College (Mumbai) was pursuing his masters’ thesis when he helped Zeeshan with the comparison of the morphology of the new gecko with related species as part of his training for his thesis.
Harshil and rest of the team aided in analysis and a paper describing the gecko was submitted which got published in the recent issue of the international peer-reviewed journal Evolutionary Systematics.