The island of Madagascar is home to a pretty amazing and diverse collection of geckos, with nearly 70 species from 10 different genera. Now you can add one more species to the list: Paroedura hordiesi, a highly camouflaged nocturnal gecko that was recently discovered in northern Madagascar. It was described this week in Zoosystematics and Evolution.
P. hordiesi—which, like most of Madagascar's geckos, does not yet have a common name—lives on limestone rocks full of fissures and cracks that allow it to hide. The gecko has a very limited habitat, less than 130 square kilometers within the Montagne des Français Reserve on the very northernmost tip of the island. Although technically a protected area, the reserve is heavily degraded and threatened by illegal logging and charcoal production. For these reasons, the researchers who discovered this new species wrote in their paper that it should be considered critically endangered.
The researchers, who came from several German and French institutions, examined the new species's morphology and genetics and compared them with dozens of others from northern Madagascar. They found a wide range of differences, something typical of what they call the reserve's "microendemic species," all of which have very small habitat ranges. These species—including geckos, dwarf frogs, chameleons and skinks—are separated by incredibly varying landscapes that include rainforests growing on top of volcanic rocks, dry forests growing on limestone and sandy coastal environments. This, the authors wrote, has allowed them to evolve into a wide range of species even though they are not separated by a great amount of distance.
This high degree of microendemism means the new gecko is probably not the last species to be discovered in the region. Lead author Frank Glaw of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology said in a prepared release that the reserve "is believed to hold yet undiscovered biodiversity." Perhaps this and future discoveries could help officials commit to better protecting this unique region in an already unique and biologically rich country.
Photo: Frank Glaw, used under Creative Commons license