Under the cover of night, a spiky creature emerged from the forest surrounding a town in northeastern India. The clawed creature had gone largely unnoticed, but not anymore.
Researchers ventured into the forests around Vairengte several times in 2021 and 2022, according to a study published Nov. 13 in the journal Zootaxa. They set out at night to survey local wildlife.
While surveying the backyard of a church, the researchers found three spiky lizards lurking in the darkness, the study said. They found four more similar-looking lizards in other areas of town.
Taking a closer look at the lizards, researchers realized they’d discovered a new species: Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis, or the Vairengte bent-toed gecko.
Vairengte bent-toed geckos are considered “moderate-sized,” reaching about 6 inches in length, the study said. They have “moderately slender” bodies covered in spikes and “robust” claws.
Photos show the Vairengte bent-toed gecko perched on a leaf and a log. It has a brown body covered with a collage of dark brown and white blotches. Its eyes are vibrant and almost psychedelic-looking.
The lighting of one photo gives the gecko a blue-gray hue.
The new species of geckos has “secretive nocturnal behavior,” making it a “little-known gecko,” researchers said. It was found in forested areas on the edge of town, including a stone wall and a set of steps.
So far, the Vairengte bent-toed gecko has only been found around Vairengte, the study said. The gecko “is likely to occur” in nearby areas.
Researchers said they named the new species after the town where it was discovered.
Vairengte is a small town in northeastern India, about 1,200 miles southeast of New Delhi. The town is in the state of Mizoram, which borders Bangladesh to the west and Myanmar to the east.
The new species was identified by its coloring, size, spikes and scale pattern, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between about 4% and about 27% genetic divergence from other bent-toed geckos.
The research team included Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga, Zosiamliana Colney, Mathipi Vabeiryureilai, Fanai Malsawmdawngliana, Sanath Chandra Bohra, Lal Biakzuala, Lal Muansanga, Madhurima Das and Jayaditya Purkayastha.