New lizard species found in plateaus of Satara in Maharashtra

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Mumbai, Feb 13: A distinctive new species of ground-dwelling lizard (gecko) of the genus Hemidactylus has been found in the plateaus of the Satara district in Maharashtra.

A member of a group of chiefly terrestrial Indian Hemidactylus species that have undivided, or only partly divided subdigital lamellae, this new species has been discovered by Mr Varad B Giri of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai and Dr Aaron M Bauer of Villanova University, US. Their paper was published in the Journal ''Zootaxa'' in February 2008.

At present, this species is only known from the type locality, which lies in the south-central part of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. This region is unique in the presence of large laterite or basaltic plateaus on the crests of mountains. Mostly semi-evergreen forest characterises the valley vegetation. Most of the plateaus support sparse vegetation, which is mostly evident in monsoon and in summer they look barren. Apart from their unique ecological features, these plateaus have a unique floral and faunal diversity.

The northern Western Ghats, especially the parts in Maharashtra, are relatively unexplored and there is little information regarding the amphibians and reptiles of this region. In the last four years three new species of amphibians have been discovered from Maharashtra. All these new discoveries were the result of localised surveys with moderate search efforts.

With intensive and systematic surveys it would be possible to further increase ther knowledge of reptiles of the northern Western Ghats Mr Giri said in a relese here Excellent examples of the highly diverse and intact Western Ghats forests could be found in the State, but in the Satara district the forest was more fragmented and increasingly degraded by human exploitation.

Though herpetologically unexplored, the occurrence of a new ground dwelling Hemidactylus highlights the uniqueness of this region. As this area has large expanses of plateaus, efforts were now being made to confirm the occurrence of this species from other likely areas.


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