Study finds new lizard species in Western Ghats

Study finds new lizard species in Western Ghats

Microauris aurantolabium, one of the new species of lizard found at Western Ghats.

A recent study has found the presence of two new genera and two new species of lizards in the Western Ghats.

In a recent paper, Saunak Pal, a scientist with the Bombay Natural History Society and his colleagues from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, Bengaluru, have carried out a thorough revision of the taxonomy of agamid lizards of peninsular India.

Four evolutionary groups were found mainly in peninsular India based on large-scale geographical sampling, molecular and morphological studies. 

The first group includes Calotes (like the common garden lizards) consisting of species not only from peninsular India, but also several from Southeast Asia. This large (known) group was split in three groups based on the results of this study.

New genus

The second group, which is endemic to Western Ghats, was (newly) named ‘Monilesaurus,’ meaning lizards with a necklace as lizards belonging to this new genus have a distinct fold of skin across the neck resembling a necklace.

Finally, deep in the forests of the southern tip of the Western Ghats is a highly divergent species, which was allocated a genus of its own, ‘Microauris’.

The fourth group, consisting of rock agamas (genus Psammophilus), are found near rocky habitats and are widespread throughout the dry areas of the Deccan plateau.

Even though these lizards look similar to the ground-dwelling agamas of north and northwest India, they turn out to be quite closely related to the Western Ghats forest-dwelling genus, Monilesaurus.

Less-studied groups

“This study signifies the lack of understanding of relationship among Indian reptiles and shows that we still need lot more systematic research on Indian agamids, especially for widespread but less-studied groups like the Rock Agamas and also the various agamid groups found in the North East,” said V Deepak, co-author of the paper.

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