Nestled into the woodlands of Uganda sat a “dwarf”-like creature. The pregnant animal waited out the night on a tree trunk —or tried to.
Passing scientists spotted the pregnant animal — and discovered a “cryptic” new species.
Researchers ventured into the woodlands of the Karamoja region of the central African country several times in 2015, according to a study published Sept. 23 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
During their fieldwork, researchers found seven lizards perched on tree trunks, the study said. Intrigued, they took a closer look at the lizards and discovered a new species: Lygodactylus karamoja, or the Karamoja dwarf gecko.
The Karamoja dwarf gecko is considered “large,” reaching about 3 inches in size, the study said. It has a “slender” body, “rounded” snout and several “chevrons” on its throat.
Photos show the Karamoja dwarf gecko. It has a brown body and white spots down its back. A lighter-colored gecko appears to have an almost marbled pattern to its scales. The animal’s eyes are brown with a black circular pupil.
Underneath, the gecko’s belly and groin are various shades of yellow, photos show. A pattern of U and V-shaped stripes decorates its throat.
Researchers described the Karamoja dwarf gecko as having a “cryptic nature.” The geckos were “always found on trees” and were most active during the day, the study said. One pregnant gecko was found at night.
The new species lives in woodland habitats of “mid-elevation savannahs” in the Karamoja region, the study said. Researchers named the new species after this region, “which is occupied by the Karamojong people.”
The Karamoja region is in northeastern Uganda and borders South Sudan to the north and Kenya to the east.
The new species was identified by its size, color pattern, scale pattern and other “minor” physical features, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between about 6% 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 “large” mountain-dwelling gecko, a gecko with a “leopard-like” pattern, a gecko from a “unique” habitat and a “large” forest-dwelling gecko.