New gecko species found in Meghalaya named after Indian Army
English name of the 'Cyrtodactylus exercitus' species was given as the Indian army’s bent-toed gecko

Guwahati: The Indian Army has now got a gecko to its name. A herpetologist from Assam, Jayaditya Purkayastha, has named a new species of bent-toed gecko, which was found at a military station, after the Indian Army.

The new species from Meghalaya was recorded from Umroi Military Station in Ri-Bhoi district and its scientific name was given as Cyrtodactylus exercitus (in Latin, exercitus   means army). The name was given to honour the Indian army for its service to the nation. The English name of the species was given as the Indian army’s bent-toed gecko.

Northeast India is now home to 16 species of bent-toed geckos.

“One of the best ways to serve the motherland is by protecting it and its citizens and who better than the Indian armed forces. The biggest fear that haunts us is our death and the armymen embrace death for our wellbeing. As long as I live, I will be in debt to my countries’ armed forces and this is my minuscule contribution to the forces that make us sleep peacefully with a belief that our nation is in safe hands,” Dr Jayaditya Purkayastha, general secretary of Help Earth told EastMojo.

Purkayastha said the species is only known from the type locality inside the Umroi army cantonment area. The type series was collected from a very small rocky patch within the cantonment area. All the individuals were collected just after dark from the crevices of the rock.

“During the survey, we could not find any Cyrtodactylus within the whole cantonment area except in this patch.”

As a part of ongoing research to uncover herpetofaunal diversity of Northeast India, a team of researchers, including Dr Jayaditya Purkayastha and Sanath Chandra Bohra of Help Earth, Yashpal Singh Rathee of Umroi Military Station, Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga, Vabeiryureilai Mathipi, Lal Biakzuala & Lal Muansanga of Dept of Zoology, Mizoram University and Beirathie Litho of RMSA School Lobo, discovered two new of species of bent-toed gecko, one each from Meghalaya and Mizoram.

Their findings were published in the EuropeanJournal of Taxonomy.

The new species from Mizoram were given the scientific name Cyrtodactylus siahaensis and English name Siaha bent-toed gecko. The species was named after Siaha (district capital of Siaha District), where the species was found. The suggested local name is Khotlia (which means bent-toed geckos in Mara ethnic language). This species was found from the type locality near human settlements of Siaha town. Being a strictly nocturnal species, they are most active two to five hours after dark.

Scientists say very little is known about the natural history the new gecko species, which are both nocturnal and are rarely encountered

Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga of Mizoram University told EastMojo: “C. siahaensis individuals are found in the anthropogenic area of the town. What we need is conservation awareness and an action plan.” 

The genus Cyrtodactylus is represented by around 320 species worldwide and is the third most speciose vertebrate genus in the world. The members of the genus range from South Asia to Melanesia with high diversity in south Asia. Northeast India is now home to 16 species of bent-toed geckos.

The Meghalaya population was a sister of C. guwahatiensis from Guwahati city of Kamrup Metropolitan District, Assam and the Mizoram population was a sister to recently described C. bengkhuaiai from the Aizawl District, Mizoram.

The study says the new gecko species are both nocturnal and are rarely encountered. Very little is known about their natural history and scientists involved in the study have  suggested that the new species described here should also be considered Data Deficient (DD), according to the categorisation of IUCN (2022), due to the fact that all the specimens were known only from this area.

The authors said the knowledge on many reptile species of Northeast India is limited and detailed further research needs to be done here.


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