Bold ‘dwarf’-like creature found lurking on cave walls in India. It’s a new species

Perched on the wall of a cave in western India, a “dwarf”-like creature watched a much larger figure approach. Instead of scampering away, the small lizard held its ground — and surprised the approaching scientists.

Researchers encountered the bold geckos while visiting a Buddhist cave in Maharashtra in 2021, Amit Sayyed wrote in a study published Nov. 18 in The Journal of Asian Biodiversity, Taprobanica.

When approached by humans, the small gecko “did not retreat far,” the study said. This behavior was “unexpected” and showed “remarkable boldness.”

Researchers found three of these audacious geckos, including a pregnant female, lurking on the cave walls, the study said. Looking closer at the animals, Sayyed realized he had discovered a new species: Cnemaspis fortis, or the brave dwarf gecko.

Sayyed said he named the new species after the Latin word for “strong” because of its “notable” bravery.

Brave dwarf geckos are the “second smallest” species of Indian dwarf geckos, reaching about 2.3 inches in length, the study said. They have “relatively short” bodies, curved claws and pointed spikes intermixed with their scales.

A Cnemaspis fortis, or brave dwarf gecko, perched on a rock. Photo from Amit Sayyed
A Cnemaspis fortis, or brave dwarf gecko, perched on a rock. Photo from Amit Sayyed

A photo shows a brave dwarf gecko perched on a rock. It has a tan-brown body speckled with yellow. Several darker brown blotches run down its back like a colorful spine. Its eyes have a dark brown-black pupil and look almost like googly eyes.

So far, the new species has only been found around the Gandharpale Caves of Maharashtra, Sayyed said. These caves are about 100 miles southeast of Mumbai and about 700 miles southwest of New Delhi.

The Gandharpale Caves are in a hilly area and surrounded by a forest, the study said. Brave dwarf geckos were found inside and outside of the cave.

The new species was identified by its size, scale patterns and spikes, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between about 4% and about 8% genetic divergence from other dwarf gecko species.

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