Newly discovered gecko named after Tejas Thackeray

Cnemaspis thackerayi is a recognition of his contributions to systematic zoology, say researchers

Published - May 23, 2019 01:32 am IST - Mumbai

Rare find:  Cnemaspis thackerayi.

Rare find: Cnemaspis thackerayi.

A newly discovered species of gecko, a nocturnal and often highly vocal lizard usually found in warm regions, which was discovered in Tamil Nadu by Indian researchers, has been named after Tejas Thackeray, the younger son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

In a paper published on Wednesday in Zootaxa , a New Zealand journal, researchers Akshay Khandekar, Nikhil Gaitonde, and Ishan Agarwal from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru, described two new species found in the Shevaroy mountain range in Tamil Nadu, which belong to the genus cnemaspis, commonly known as day or dwarf gecko. The paper also contains additional data of cnemaspis yercaudensis that was described in 2000 by American scientists.

While one species has been named after Mr. Thackeray, another one was named after the mountain range where the two were discovered, with it being the only locality where the two species are found on the planet.

“We have named cnemaspis thackerayi after Mr. Thackeray as a recognition of his contributions to systematic zoology by discovering and naming more than dozens of fresh water crab species in Maharashtra. He not only has a good understanding of all reptiles found in India, but also in the world. He has been very supportive to us throughout the taxonomies,” Mr. Khandekar said.

While there are about 100 species of lizards found in India, 36 species of cnemaspis have been reported in the country. While the species was discovered one-and-a-half years ago by the NCBS researchers and Mr. Thackeray, while doing a survey on gecko diversity in Tamil Nadu, it took the researchers nearly seven months to study them.

Two newly discovered cnemaspis species can be distinguished from the known gecko species by the number of scales present on their bodies and the number of glands that are generally present in males only, the researchers said. “They can also be distinguished on the basis of colour patterns. The two species also have a very unique DNA in comparison to other geckos,” Mr. Khandekar said.

To distinguish the species, the researchers had to study the DNA data and morphological characters such as colouration, number of scales around the body, and pores. While males have orange and bright colours, females are generally duller and have brown colouration. “Both the species are strictly rock-dwelling. That means they are only found in big rock boulders and old buildings in the forest 1,200 metre above the sea level. They also sexually occur or represent themselves in two forms,” he said.

Mr. Thackeray, who is known for his interest and research in wildlife, had earlier discovered 11 species and one genus of freshwater crabs from the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, while in February 2016, he had discovered five species from the same region.

Mr. Thackeray said he is thrilled by the honour. “Having a stunning cnemaspis named after you is a dream for every herpetologist. What makes me happier is that we have managed to form a wonderful team with common goals and the passion to do good science and produce stellar papers prolifically. With papers like these, I hope to bridge the gap between citizens and science, and to inspire more youth to get actively involved in some way or the other,” he told The Hindu .

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