A gecko that remained hidden and was believed to be extinct was re-discovered recently after 135 years. Called the Jeypore Gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) it was found in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa by scientists who spent more than two years looking for this little creature.
It is one thing to hope that a species is not extinct and totally another to actually show proof of its existence. But doctorate student of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Ishan Agarwal, Aniruddha Datta-Roy and field assistant Tarun Khichi finally got the reward of their perseverance when they re-discovered a tiny Indian Gecko after 135 years.
Ishan has been working on the Geckoella since 2008 to understand more about its evolutionary history. This lizard species was first detected and collected in 1877 by British national, Colonel RH Beddome from Jeypore Hills in Orissa.
In his quest to find more about geckos, the researcher Agrawal sifted through the little information available of the lizard like creature and thought it imperative to locate that elusive one that had remained hidden for more than a century.
Turning Sleuth for a Gecko
Colonel Beddome had made his discovery of the Jeypore Gecko in the Eastern Ghats a century ago. He had found a male of the species with orangey-brown dorsal side and large, brown blotches. But over the years either no one else noted the absence of the gecko in recorded scientific history or simply did not bother to look for it.
In 2008 Agrawal began working on the Geckoella and got interested in this particular species believed extinct.
He said the rediscovery was a product of two years of collaborative efforts of scientists from the Centre for Ecological Sciences; the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; the Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, and the America-based Villanova University.
The work began by studying the little information on the animal.
“The only clues on the species were from its original description, which said that the species was collected under a rock in a forest at 4,200 feet on “Patinghe Hill, Jeypore,”said Agarwal. He described the team’s discovery a result of “persistence work and little bit of luck”.
In 2010, the team embarked on their first field trip to try and locate the gecko. They had searched various places in Koraput district for this species with no luck. In 2011 they assembled again with Praveen Karanth, V Deepak and Prudhviraj, for another field trip through high elevations of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and against all odds were able to find the species again from a different locality in Andhra Pradesh
The results of the re-discovery have been published in journal ‘Hamadryad’.
The Gecko from Eastern Ghats
Varad Giri from Bombay Natural History Society and Aaron Bauer of Villanova University studied the biological classification of the lizard species.
Interestingly, besides being morphologically unique and endemic to a region not traditionally known to harbour many endemics, this species appears restricted to a very specialized habitat in the Eastern Ghats, semi-evergreen forests above 1000m elevation.
“The discovery is unique among Indian geckos as it has enlarged, hexagonal, plate-like scales across the back,” Giri said.
What the scientific community also interpret from this discovery is that there might be many other species in India that have not been discovered yet or simply thought to be extinct without proper investigation to prove otherwise.
It is urgently needed that India’s biodiversity is systematically listed and constantly upgraded to give a place to all living forms of this immense nation.
The scientist warned that the immense manmade changes in the natural system was making time run out for many species.
“There is an urgent need for trained biologists to undertake country-wide surveys,” said Giri.
Let us hope the current discovery encourages others to keep hiking the beaten path and find more treasures of the natural world hidden from our sight.
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