At a private estate in the mountains of southern India, a “dwarf”-like creature went about its day. The brightly colored animal moved along the rocks and walls of the property — and caught the attention of passing scientists.
Researchers visited the estate in Tamil Nadu on a wildlife survey in 2015, according to a study published Nov. 5 in the Asian Journal of Conservation Biology. While there, they noticed four colorful geckos.
Taking a closer look at the lizards, researchers realized they’d discovered a new species: Cnemaspis rashidi, or Rashid’s dwarf gecko.
Rashid’s dwarf gecko is considered “medium sized,” reaching up to about 4.3 inches in total length, the study said. The gecko has “pointed” spikes scattered across its body and curved claws, but its most noticeable trait is its coloring.
Male Rashid’s dwarf geckos have a bright yellow head with brown-black lines and blotches, a photo shows. From the upper body down, the geckos are a mosaic of black and white patches. Their tails have alternating black and white bands, giving it a striped look.
Female geckos, however, differ from the vivid coloring of males, the study said. Females have a brown coloring mixed with “dull-white markings” and spots.
Rashid’s dwarf gecko was found around the rock boulders and walls of the private estate, researchers said. The geckos are most active during the day and restricted to higher elevations of about 4,100 feet.
So far, Rashid’s dwarf gecko has only been found at the Kottamalai estate in Tamil Nadu, the study said. This estate is about 1,500 miles south of New Delhi.
Researchers said they named the new species after Rashid Sayyed, the father of the study’s lead co-author, Amit Sayyed.
The new species was identified by its size, coloring, scale patterns and spikes, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between 9.5% and about 30% genetic divergence from other species of dwarf gecko.
The research team included Amit Sayyed, Samson Kirubakaran, Rahul Khot, Thanigaivel A., Satheeshkumar M., Ayaan Sayyed, Masum Sayyed, Jayaditya Purkayastha, Shubhankar Deshpande and Shauri Sulakhe.