Scientists have discovered six new lizard species of Dravidogecko family in the Western Ghats, PTI reported on Tuesday. Dravidogecko is a small size lizard found in wet forests in mid-to-high elevations.

This is seen as a significant development as only one species of the genus was known so far.

Researchers said the study highlighted the importance of Western Ghats as a “biodiversity hotspot”. Bengaluru-based Herpetologist R Chaitanya, who led the research team, said the study and sample collection was done over last four years. The research paper about the species was published in New Zealand’s ZooTaxa journal on Monday, he added.

Pune-based Foundation for Biodiversity Conservation Director Varad Giri, who was also part of the research team, said the species evolved around 58 million years ago when the Indian subcontinent was separated from the African land. “Till recently, only one species [of Dravidogecko anamallensis described in 1875 by German-born British zoologist Albert Gunther] was recognised under this genus, which was perceived to be widespread across the Western Ghats,” he said.

Giri said the reptile was found in the mountain range from Kerala’s Wayanad district to Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district.

“Out of curiosity, our team set out to study these enigmatic and purportedly ancient geckos to understand their diversity and their evolutionary origin,” Chaitanya added. The sampling process revealed that there were at least six new species of the family hidden.

The six new species have been named as Dravidogecko Septentrionalis, D Janakiae (after botanist Janaki Ammal from Kerala), D Tholpalli, D Meghamalaiensis, D Douglasadamsi (after British author and satirist Douglas Noel Adams) and D Smithi (in honour of British herpetologist Malcolm Arthur Smith).

The other team members of the study included Deepak Veerappan of the Natural History Museum in London, Aniruddha Datta-Roy of Bhubaneswar-based National Institute of Science Education and Research, Dr BHCK Murthy from the Zoological Survey of India and Praveen Karanth from the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.

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