New cryptic species of gecko discovered on Felicite Island in the Seychelles
(Seychelles News Agency) – A new cryptic species from the sucker tailed geckoendemic to Seychelles, known in Creole as lezar lake kole, has been discovered and data on the species are improving the basic understanding of Seychelles’ biodiversity, according to an article published in the scientific journal Zootaxa.
The paper, published on June 9, describes in detail this new species within the Urocotyledon inexpectata species of lizard in the family Gekkonidae. The cryptic species, called Urocotyledon norzilensis, was discovered on Felicite Island. Cryptic species are animals that look the same but are genetically different.
Researchers involved in the discovery collected 41 specimens from several islands during fieldwork in 2011 and then examined them to reach their conclusion.
One of the paper’s co-authors, David Gower, told SNA that “we argue that although the two leaf-tailed gecko species are very difficult to tell apart in life, the inner island populations northern and southern Seychelles should be treated as two separate species and therefore at least two separate conservation units,” said Gower.
Furthermore, he explained that it took 11 years to complete the study because the researchers had to combine data from photographs taken in the field with data from molecular genetics (DNA) and also from microCT.
“We needed to do a very thorough internal and external examination of historical specimens in museums to find out what morphological characteristics matched the great genetic diversity we already knew about. It didn’t take 11 years of study, but sometimes other things stand in the way of rapid progress,” Gower said.
Urocotyledon inexpectata had previously been shown to have two very distinct groups of organisms and that one lineage was exclusive to a group of northern islands and the second lineage exclusive to the more southern islands of the Seychelles archipelago.
He also noted that “the findings we report further highlight that Seychelles is a place with rich, unique and fascinating biodiversity that is not yet fully understood.”
“The findings help to improve the inventory of animal life in Seychelles, and to understand its distribution and ultimately its conservation requirements,” he added.
He also shared with SNA that other new species are expected to be discovered in Seychelles.
“Discovering species is often just the beginning – so there is still a lot of work to be done to study the ecology and behavior of these species, and to include them in ongoing conservation projects,” Gower said. .