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Thiruvananthapuram, March 30 – Scientists have discovered a new species of ground-dwelling gecko, a species of lizard, from the coastal forests of northern Kerala.
The beautifully-patterned Cyrtodactylus (Geckoella) chengodumalaensis is a small, nocturnal species that is found on the ground among leaf litter and rocks in forests and partially human altered landscapes like orchards and other areas with canopy cover.
The Chengodumala or Coastal Kerala Geckoella is endemic to low hills and coastal forest in northern Kerala and is known from scattered localities spanning a maximum of 120 km distance in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad, and Thrissur districts.
Chengodumala is a midland hillock in Kozhikode district, and also the type locality for Cnemaspis chengodumalaensis (Chengodumala dwarf gecko).
The second new species of gecko to have been described from Chengodumala highlights the fact that biodiversity of these low-elevation hillocks is understudied, with many more species remaining to be discovered.
Chengodumala and other coastal hills in northern Kerala are under immense pressure due to illegal mining and indiscriminate logging and protection of these unique habitats that support endemic biodiversity is imperative.
The paper describing the new species was published in Journal of Herpetology, an international publication of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, US.
The research team was led by Ishan Agarwal and Akshay Khandekar from the Thackeray Wildlife Foundation, Mumbai and included collaborators Umesh Pavukundy and Sandeep Das from St. Joseph’s College and Kerala Forest Research Institute and Aaron M. Bauer from Villanova University, US.