Australian researchers have discovered a new species of gecko with beautiful psychedelic eyes. The amazing lizards have evaded detection for decades due to their similarities to a closely related species.
The new species, called the lesser spiny-tailed gecko (Spinule Strophuruslisten)), is approximately 2.4 inches (6.1 centimeters) long and features a mottled pattern of white and gray scales, which is also mimicked in its eyes. Camouflaged geckos live in forested areas in southern Western Australia, although researchers aren’t sure exactly how large the new gecko population is.
S. spinule is the 21st species to be identified in the genus Strophure, all of which are endemic to Australia. They are collectively known as spiny-tailed geckos because they have small spines on their tails and sometimes above their eyes.
S. spinule was considered to be a closely related species S.assimilis, also known as the Goldfields spiny-tailed gecko. But in the new study, published in the journal Western Australian Museum Archivethe researchers conducted a large-scale genetic analysis of the genus and discovered the new species.
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A closer examination of S. spinule showed that the new species can be physically distinguished from S.assimilis and other spiny-tailed geckos by its unusually straight, unevenly spaced spines along its body and its enlarged spines on its tail, the researchers wrote in the paper.
Genetic analysis also revealed that despite looking most like S.assimilisthe new species is actually more closely related to the eastern spiny-tailed gecko (S. intermediate), the gentle spiny-tailed gecko (S. spinigerus) and the Exmouth spiny-tailed gecko (S.rankini), the researchers wrote.
Like all other spiny-tailed geckos, S. spinule can secrete a harmless, foul-smelling chemical from glands near its tail to deter potentially predatory birds from landing in overhead shrubs, from where they normally attack.
S. spinule seems to prefer forests dominated by mulga (Aneurous acacia), which grows in extremely arid conditions. The researchers now want to know why the new species prefers this type of habitat.