New species of kangaroo lizard discovered in Idukki

The new species, popularly known as the northern kangaroo lizard, has been named Agasthyagama Edge.
A new species of kangaroo lizard named Agasthyagama Edge
A new species of kangaroo lizard named Agasthyagama Edge

KOCHI : A team of researchers led by the Department of Zoology at Calicut University and Kerala Forest Research Institute has discovered a new species of garden lizard at Kulamavu in Idukki. According to the research work published in the science journal Vertebrate Zoology, the new species, popularly known as the northern kangaroo lizard, has been named Agasthyagama Edge.

The elusive northern kangaroo lizard is only 30mm to 43mm long. It lives underneath the dead leaf biomass and feeds on little insects. Unlike other garden lizards, the Agasthyagama Edge does not climb trees. If attacked, the lizard can stand upright and run on its hind legs.

The research team encountered the species with colourful throats near a forest stream during an expedition in search of the tadpoles of Mahabali frogs during the 2014-15 period. As they thought it could be the Agasthyagama beddomii species, they tried to ignore the lizard. However, a discussion with researcher Deepak Veerappan, of the University of Wolverhampton, inspired the team to conduct a detailed study on the species.

Meanwhile, researcher K Subin recorded sightings of these species at various locations. The team compared the genetic features of the new species with the specimens at the London Natural History Museum and Chicago Field Museum.

The new species has a moderately large head with pointed snouts. The body is slender with long tails. It has strong claws and a reduced fifth toe that limits the ability to climb. The female has a brown body with a reddish-brown head, peach-tinged torso and dark brown tail. The male has a light tannish-brown body with a peach-coloured stripe running down its back. The throat has a bright red patch in the centre with white-blue scales surrounding it.

The discovery of a second species of Agasthyagama adds to the ever-increasing reptile diversity in the Western Ghats. In the past decade, four species of agamids were reported from here. Three of these species are restricted to high elevations. In the Western Ghats, the role of the Shencottah gap as a biogeographic barrier has been recognised in a few high-elevation restricted amphibians. The gap appears to have played a small role in the genetic structuring of some of the low-elevation species.

The species has been named after the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) of Existence programme of the Zoological Society of London. The research team included Sandeep Das, Saunak Pal, Surya Narayanan, K Subin, Muhamed Jafer Palot, K P Rajkumar and V Deepak. The Zoology Department of Calicut University, Zoological Survey of India, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Bombay Natural History Society, Atree Bengaluru, Senckenberg Museum, Germany, London Natural History Society and Aranyakam Nature Foundation supported the research.

Agasthyagama Edge

The new species, popularly known as the northern kangaroo lizard, has been named Agasthyagama Edge. It has a moderately large head with pointed snouts. The body is slender with long tails. It has strong claws and a reduced fifth toe that limits the ability to climb. The throat has a bright red patch in the centre with white-blue scales surrounding it

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