A recent study by the Bombay Natural History Society and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has revealed the presence of new species of lizards from the Western Ghats of India.

The Bombay Natural History Society said four evolutionary groups of lizards were found, mainly in peninsular India. The first group includes Calotes, which consists of a species not only in peninsular India but also in Southeast Asia, the society said in a press release on Thursday. The second group, which is endemic to the Western Ghats, was assigned the genus Monilesaurus, meaning lizards with a necklace – owing to a fold of skin across their necks.

A lizard of the species Monilesaurus acanthocephalus (Image credit: Bombay Natural History Society)
A lizard of the species Monilesaurus acanthocephalus (Image credit: Bombay Natural History Society)

The third species of lizards, discovered on the southern tip of the Western Ghats, was assigned the genus Microauris. The fourth species, comprising rock agamas, are widespread throughout the dry areas of the Deccan plateau, the researchers said. These are closely related to the Monilesaurus.

“For over 150 years since their description, Roux’s forest lizard and Elliot’s forest lizard were considered to be part of the widespread agamid genus Calotes,” Bombay Natural History Society lead researcher Saunak Pal said. “However, we found that these two lizards are actually part of a distinct group found only in the Western Ghats, which we named Molinesaurus. In addition, we found two new species, Molinesaurus montanus, and Molinesaurus acanthocephalus, belonging to this genus.”

A lizard of the genus Microauris (Image credit: Bombay Natural History Society)
A lizard of the genus Microauris (Image credit: Bombay Natural History Society)

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, a global program that provides funding and technical assistance to non-governmental organisations, supported the research, which was carried out as part of a larger survey of frogs, lizards and snakes in the Western Ghats.

V Deepak, a co-author of the paper published on Thursday, said the research shows the lack of understanding about relationships among Indian reptiles. He added that more systematic research on Indian agamids was necessary.