Master of Disguise – Scientists have discovered a new ‘mysterious’ species of leaf-tailed gecko

The holotype (representative sample) of Europlatus jaramasu Shows the striking tail and body color of the new species. Image source: Dr. Mark D. Scheers, Natural History Museum of Denmark

An international team of scientists has identified and named a new species of leaf-tailed gecko from northern Madagascar, known as Europlatus jaramasu.

Leaf-tailed geckos are masters of camouflage. some Classify They have folds of skin around the entire body and head, complemented by flattened tails. During the day, they rest with their heads down on tree trunks with these skin flaps spread out, blending seamlessly into their surroundings and making them almost invisible. As night falls, they come to life, moving among the slender branches of lower plants in search of invertebrate prey.

“When we first discovered this species in 2000, we already suspected that it might be new to science,” says Dr. Frank Glau, Curator of Herpetology at the Bavarian State Zoological Collection, and lead author of the study. “But it took us many years to gather enough information to confidently describe it as a new species.”

Uroplatus garamaso preparing to jump

The leaf-tailed gecko is a good jumper, often bringing its hands and feet together before jumping. Image source: Dr. Jörn Kohler, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Germany

The team collected data on the genetics, morphology and distribution of the species. Several expeditions to northern Madagascar have been undertaken to expand knowledge of this new species. This discovery was recently announced in the open access scientific journal Salamander.

Europlatus jaramasu, the hidden face

During the day, Europlatus jaramasu They remain hidden, head down on tree trunks, with their hind limbs extended and their limbs pressed against the bark, making them almost impossible to detect. Here, the gecko is seen directly, as one might (not) find it in the forest. Image source: Dr. Mark D. Scheers, Natural History Museum of Denmark

One of the challenges was that Europlatus jaramasu Very similar to another type, Europlatus hinkeliiHe has been confused about this in the past. “This is very common for reptiles from Madagascar,” explains Dr. Jörn Köhler from the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt. “There are a lot of so-called ‘mysterious species’, which are waiting for taxonomic treatment.”

Uroplatus visible, hidden

Leaf-tailed geckos are masters of disguise, and Europlatus jaramasu She is one of the best. Here, the gecko is hiding on the right side of the tree trunk. Image source: Dr. Mark D. Scheers, Natural History Museum of Denmark

Through careful analysis, the authors were able to find some features that distinguish the two species. “The real key was discovering that the tip of the tongue is black U Hinkellywhile its color is pink Yu Garamasusays Dr. Philipp Sebastian Gehring from Bielefeld University in Germany. The new species is 20 cm long, and is slightly smaller than… U HinkellyIt has a narrower tail.

“The new species is the latest in a new series Europlatus “Geckos from Madagascar have been described over the past few years,” says Dr. Vanomizana Ratsovina of the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar, who completed her PhD in leaf-tailed gecko science.

Europlatus jaramasu revealed

Here, we reveal the gecko in its hidden mode. Image source: Dr. Mark D. Scheers, Natural History Museum of Denmark

“We are close to completing the taxonomic inventory of the genus, but this is just the beginning of our understanding of their evolution and ecology,” says Dr. Mark Scheers, curator of herpetology and amphibians at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. “Mouth color, which has been so useful in identifying different species, has a completely unknown function. There is a lot we don’t yet know about these geckos, from their broader evolutionary relationships to their behavior.”

The stunning sight Europlatus jaramasu

Unusual eyes Europlatus jaramasu They help distinguish it from the closely related species of leaf-tailed geckos. Image source: Dr. Jörn Kohler, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Germany

Reference: “New large-bodied species of leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus) from northern Madagascar” by Glaw, F., J. Köhler, F. M. Ratsoavina, A. P. Raselimanana, A. Crottini, P.-S. Gehring, W. Boehm, M. D. Scheers and M. Fences, August 15, 2023, Salamander.

The study was funded by the Science and Technology Foundation.

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