Scientists discover new kangaroo lizard species from Western Ghats

The species is the second one of the Agasthyagama genus after A. beddomii that has been previously reported from Sivagiri hills in Tamil Nadu

January 30, 2024 06:13 pm | Updated 07:10 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Agasthyagama edge or the northern kangaroo lizard

Agasthyagama edge or the northern kangaroo lizard

The biodiverse forests of Western Ghats have thrown up yet another marvel of evolution – a new species of tiny lizards, which researchers have described as a “diminutive dragon.”

Agasthyagama edge or the northern kangaroo lizard, which belongs to the Agamidae family, is known to have a maximum snout-vent length of 4.3 cm.

A group of scientists from various institutions in India and abroad discovered the new species from the southern Western Ghats at Kulamavu in Idukki.

The species is the second one of the Agasthyagama genus after A. beddomii or Indian kangaroo lizard that has been previously reported from Sivagiri hills in Tamil Nadu.

Poor climbers

A reduced fifth toe makes these reptiles poor climbers and hence do not climb trees like other lizards. Instead, they are mostly terrestrial and found in areas with dense leaf litter cover. While they feed on small insects, this variety of kangaroo lizard run fast and hide within dry leaves to evade predators.

The findings have been reported in the Vertebrate Zoology, a scientific journal published by the Senckenberg Museum in Germany.

According to the study’s lead author Sandeep Das, a Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB ) national postdoctoral fellow at Calicut University, the species was first sighted during an expedition in search of another evasive species, the Mahabali frog or the purple frog, around 2015. The frog was spotted on the roadside near a forest stream in Idukki. While the sighting was initially assumed to be A. beddomii, the herpetologists found evidence that suggested the possibility of a new species.

Their hunch proved to be right after they chanced upon more members of the same species from the locality years later. The analyses revealed consistent morphological and genetic differences. Besides, they have been found to be geographically separated with the closest distributional records being approximately 80 km apart.

The new species has a uniform dull olive-brown body with slightly darker head. It also has a white throat with a broad dark brown stripe on its dewlap with brick yellow scales on the outside.


It has been named after the Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) programme of the Zoological Society of London that has supported several researchers including Dr. Das and co-author K.P. Rajkumar of Aranyakam Nature Foundation.

The other members of the research team include Saunak Pal of Bombay Natural History Society; Surya Narayanan of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment; K. Subin of Kerala Forest Research Institute; Muhamed Jafer Palot, Zoological Survey of India; and V. Deepak the University of Wolverhampton.

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