As daylight filtered through a forest canopy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a “large” creature scampered around a tree. The animal, and its colorful groin, caught the attention of passing scientists. It turned out to be a new species.
Researchers ventured into several of the central African country’s forests in 2010, according to a study published Sept. 23 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
On the trees, researchers found two “large” lizards, the study said. In archive collections, they found 14 more similar-looking lizards caught in the early to mid-1900s.
Looking closer at the reptiles, they realized they had discovered a new species: Lygodactylus gamblei, or Gamble’s dwarf gecko.
Gamble’s dwarf gecko is considered “large,” reaching about 3.1 inches in size, the study said. It has a “slender” body, “triangular” head and a “rounded” snout. Male Gamble’s dwarf geckos have “three ∩-shaped chevrons” on their throats, researchers said. Females, however, have an “immaculate white” throat.
Photos show the Gamble’s dwarf gecko. It has a pale brown-gray coloring with darker black and brown patches that give it a marbled look. Its eyes are brown with a circular pupil, photos show.
The new species has an “orange-yellowish” underside, researchers said. Photos show the lizard’s colorful stomach and groin.
Researchers described Gamble’s dwarf geckos as tree-dwellers that were active during the day. They found one lizard “scampering around a tree close to the ground in an open area.” The new species lives in forests and savannahs.
Gamble’s dwarf geckos have been found in Manono, Upenda National Park and several other southeastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the study said. In the south, the country borders Angola, Zambia and Tanzania.
Researchers said they named the new species after Tony Gamble, an “American evolutionary biologist and herpetologist” who made “substantial contributions to the evolutionary biology of geckos.”
The new species was identified by its throat pattern, coloring and other “subtle” physical features, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between about 10% and about 16% genetic divergence from other dwarf geckos.
The research team included Javier Lobón-Rovira, Aaron Bauer, Pedro Vaz Pinto, Jean-Francois Trape, Werner Conradie, Chifundera Kusamba, Timóteo Júlio, Garin Cael, Edward Stanley, Daniel Hughes, Mathias Behangana, Franck Masudi, Olivier Pauwels and Eli Greenbaum.
Researchers also discovered four more new species of dwarf geckos: a gecko with a “leopard-like” pattern, a “cryptic” woodland gecko, a “large” mountain-dwelling gecko and a gecko from a “unique” habitat.