‘Brookiish’ gecko species discovered in Thoothukudi

A new species of gecko Hemidactylus quartziticolus has been discovered from the scrub habitats of Vallanadu and Kurumalai reserves forest areas in Thoothukudi.
Male Hemidactylus quartziticolus or Quartzite brookiish gecko | Express
Male Hemidactylus quartziticolus or Quartzite brookiish gecko | Express

THOOTHUKUDI: A new species of gecko Hemidactylus quartziticolus has been discovered from the scrub habitats of Vallanadu and Kurumalai reserves forest areas in Thoothukudi. The common name suggested by the authors for the new gecko is Quartzite brookiish gecko or Thoothukudi brookiish gecko. The findings have been published in Senckenberg's World of Biodiversity on May 11.

The authors who described the new species include Akshay Khandekar, Tejas Thackeray, Satpal Gangalmale, Vivek Waghe, Swapnil Pawar, Ishan Agarwal of the Thackeray Wildlife Foundation, Mumbai, and Rameshwaran Mariappan of the Reptile Conservation of India, Tirunelveli. 

The second author, Tejas Thackeray, is the son of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.  The team of five researchers encountered the incredibly tuberculate, brookiish Hemidactylus during their survey at Vallanadu reserve forest and Kurumalai reserve forest areas in April 2022.  The specimen samples were collected near Jeya Parvathi Amman Kovil, Vallanadu reserve forest, Manakkarai and near Perumal Kovil in Kurumalai reserve forest. 

The new species -- Quartzite brookiish gecko -- is unique on various aspects, including dorsal scalation, number and arrangement of precloacal-femoral pores, the number of dorsal tubercle rows at midbody, number of lamellae under digit I and IV of manus and pes. 

The new species has the most densely packed tubercles among Indian Hemidactylus, almost resembling the most tuberculate Indian Cyrtopodion, the study says. According to the authors, the Thoothukudi brookiish gecko is the 53rd species of Hemidactylus found in India, and the seventh that is endemic to Tamil Nadu based on currently available data. There are now 37 Hemidactylus species of the Indian radiation that are endemic to peninsular India, including 10 from the Western Ghats, two from the Eastern Ghats, and 25 from other regions of peninsular India.

Speaking to TNIE, the lead author, Akshay Khandekar, said the three morphological characteristics of Hemidactylus quartziticolus that make it distinct among brookiish congeners, are its enlarged dorsal tubercles, continuous series of 34-38 precloacal-femoral pores, and the few lamellae (four) under digit I of manus and pes. 

The distributional range of the H. gleadowi clade was earlier thought restricted to central India and Pakistan, however, the discovery of Thoothukudi brookiish has now extended by over 800 km to the southern tip of India. “This is a unique finding as species of H. gleadowi clade was previously reported only in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and last in North Karnataka,” he said.  

The third author, Rameshwaran, said they observed the abundant presence of Thoothukudi brookiish gecko at Vallanadu Hills, while fewer of it were present in Kurumalai. The species has been christened as H. quartziticolus and Quartzite brookiish because it was found over the quartz rocks, he added. 
Khandekar noted that these scrub land areas sporting dry and rocky surfaces are home to several undiscovered species While the species in protected areas, can be safeguarded, the fate of the species in areas that are exploited for industrial purposes and development, is really the question, he added. 

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