Florida Museum of Natural History scientists discovered a new species of bent-toed gecko from Pakistan and published its description in the March 2007 edition of the journal Herpetologica.
Florida Museum Herpetology Collection Manager Kenneth Krysko and Florida Museum researcher Kurt Auffenberg named the new species Cyrtopodion brachykolon. They analyzed its physical characteristics (also called “morphology”) and compared it to all other geckos with similar features.
Brachykolon lives in the Himalayan Foothills subprovince of Pakistan at about 5,575 to 6,500 feet above sea level. It is found in Chir Pine forests and grasslands disturbed by people for agriculture. Like many other geckos in Pakistan, brachykolon‘s toes are angled, or bent. Researchers collected the new gecko on flat surfaces under loose rocks along stone agricultural and retaining walls. Auffenberg said that scientists do not know why some geckos have bent toes. It’s perplexing because bent-toed species occur on hard, vertical surfaces like rocks faces, as well as in sandy deserts.
“This is an extremely interesting new species due to its relative large size and very short limbs,” Auffenberg said.
Numerous features distinguish brachykolon from its most morphologically similar relative, C. walli. Brachykolon has limbs that are relatively shorter than other similar geckos (its name means “short-limb” in Greek). Researchers speculate that its shorter limbs mean it is best adapted to life on the ground rather than climbing or jumping like its longer-legged cousins.
Brachykolon has enlarged, raised, scales called tubercles on its back, as do many other geckos, but brachykolon‘s tubercles are different than other Pakistan species because seven to nine pebble-like scales surround each one, forming a distinct rosette pattern. Differing numbers of scales in key areas under its chin and near the cloaca further distinguishes brachykolon‘s from walli. Additionally, brachykolon‘s toes have fewer scales on the bottom of the digits. Bent-toed geckos do not have toe pads like many geckos.
The gecko family (Gekkonidae) the second-highest number of species for any other lizard family. In Pakistan there are 17 known species in the genus Cyrtopodion. Globally, this genus includes about 36 species. Cyrtopodion‘s high diversity in Pakistan is likely due in part to the country’s mountainous geography, and varied habitat and climatic zones.