As the evening light illuminated a farm in southern India, a “dwarf”-like creature made its way across the rocks. Something about the colorful animal caught the attention of researchers. It turned out to be a new species.
Researchers visited a cashew farm in Tamil Nadu on two field surveys in 2022 and 2023, according to a study published Nov. 17 in the journal Zootaxa. They were searching for lizards.
Along the rocks, researchers found three patterned geckos, the study said. They took a closer look at the animals and realized they had discovered a new species: Cnemaspis triedra, or the painted dwarf gecko.
Painted dwarf geckos are considered “small-sized,” reaching about 2.7 inches in length, researchers said. They have a “relatively slender” body, curved claws and some pointed spikes intermixed with their scales.
Researchers said they named the new species after “the combination of three color patterns” that make it look “painted.” Photos show a male and female painted dwarf gecko.
The male gecko has an orange-yellow body and striped black and white tail. A line of white blotches runs down its back like a colorful spine, the photo shows. Smaller white and brown spots dot its sides. Short, dark brown lines radiate outward from its eye.
The female gecko has an orange-yellow body and a plain beige tail. Instead of white spots like the male, the female gecko has brown and yellow spots dotting its sides. It too has short, dark brown lines radiating outward from its eye.
Painted dwarf geckos are most active during the day and were not seen after dusk, the study said. On one visit, researchers observed a female gecko pregnant with two eggs.
So far, painted dwarf geckos have only been found on the cashew plantation in Tamil Nadu, the study said. This farm is near Madurai and about 1,300 miles south of New Delhi.
The new species was identified by its coloring, size and scale pattern, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had at least 4.8% genetic divergence from other dwarf geckos.
The research team included Amit Sayyed, Samson Kirubankaran, Rahul Khot, Shiva Harsan, Omkar Adhikari, Ayaan Sayyed, Masum Sayyed, Ahamed Fazil, Ahamed Jerith, Shubhankar Deshpande, Jayaditya Purkayastha and Shauri Sulakhe.
Researchers also discovered a second new species of dwarf gecko on a resort.