Guwahati: A team of researchers from the Mizoram University and the Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tubingen, Germany, found a new species of flying gecko in Mizoram along the Indo-Myanmar border.
The new species has been named Gekko Mizoramensis after the state of Mizoram. The team was led by Prof Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga, Head of the Department of Zoology, Mizoram University.
Research scholar Lal Muansanga, Assistant Professor Mathipi Vabeiryureilai and PhD scholar of Max Planck University Zeeshan A Mirza were also among the team of researchers.
The study was conducted in association with Max Planck Institute for Biology, Max-Planck-Ring, Tübingen, Germany.
The team found the species to be in Mizoram along with parts of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. Flying geckos have webbed limbs and flat tails to help them glide (they do not fly).
A phylogeographic study revealed that the species is paraphyletic and comprises multiple cryptic species.
Earlier studies included samples from most parts of the species range except for India, and the status of the Indian population remained unresolved. Surveys in Mizoram and collected specimens allowed researchers to assess the systematic status of the Indian population. Morphology and molecular data suggest that the Indian population represents a distinct species and is here described as new.
The new species is most similar to its sister species Gekko popaensis, from which it differs in having an uncorrected pairwise sequence divergence of 7–14% and by discrete differences in morphology and colour pattern.
The discovery of the new species and several other reptiles from the Northeast highlights the poor state of biodiversity documentation and the need for dedicated efforts to document this region’s biota.
Details of the study on the species of the gliding or parachute gecko were published on May 15 in the latest issue of Salamandra, a German journal on herpetology, or the study of amphibians and reptiles.
“These flying, parachute or gliding geckos are a subgenus called Ptychozoon of the Gekko genus. There are 13 species of them throughout the world and they are found in Southeast Asia. Among them, only one species-Ptychozoon lionotum or smooth-backed gliding gecko-was found in Mizoram,” Lalremsanga said.
“But when we collected specimens of this gecko from different parts of Mizoram including wildlife sanctuary in Kolasib district, Dampa Tiger Reserve and Lawngtlai district and conducted studies on it including its DNA, we found that it was a distinct species,” he added.
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The new species, which is around 20 cm in length, is arboreal (living in trees), glides from one tree to another and is nocturnal. Those found in residential areas are usually seen on the exterior walls of buildings.
“On comparison of the new species with others, it was found that it differed from the Ptychozoon lionotum, (the species it was earlier believed to be), which is found primarily in Myanmar, around 700 km from the habitat of the new species. There is nearly 21% difference in DNA of both species and there were morphological variations too,” Lalremsanga added.
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