Spiky creature found lurking on temple wall in India turns out to be a new species

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Skittering along the rocky ledge of a small temple, a spine-covered creature ventured into the rainy night. Nearby, a team of scientists caught sight of the animal — and discovered a new species.

The team of five researchers, led by Akshay Khandekar, was “surveying open scrubby habitats” in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, according to a study published May 11 in the journal Vertebrate Zoology. One night as they searched the thorny and rocky landscape, the researchers spotted something along the rocks.

An “abundance” of spiky creatures appeared on the “quartzite rock formation,” the researchers said. The team collected some of the animals and moved to survey another area. Once again, several more spiky creatures appeared, perched on a rocky temple wall.

The researchers took a closer look and discovered a new species of gecko: Hemidactylus quartziticolus, the study said.

A male Quartzite brookiish gecko or Hemidactylus quartziticolus.
A male Quartzite brookiish gecko or Hemidactylus quartziticolus.

The new lizard species was named after the type of rocks where researchers found it hiding, the study said. Researchers suggested two common names for the animal, Quartzite brookiish gecko or Thoothukudi brookiish gecko.

The Quartzite brookiish gecko is small, reaching less than 3 inches in length, researchers said. It has a tan-brown body with black or dark brown blotches that appear to form an X on its back, photos show. Small knob-like spines run the length of its body, giving the lizard a spiky appearance.

Male Quartzite brookiish geckos are darker in color than females, photos show. Females have more pinkish-brown undertones and dark brown blotches.

A female Quartzite brookiish gecko or Hemidactylus quartziticolus.
A female Quartzite brookiish gecko or Hemidactylus quartziticolus.

DNA and morphological analysis confirmed the Quartzite brookiish gecko was physically and genetically distinct from other known species, the study said.

Researchers said the density of spines along the animal’s body made it “one of the most morphologically distinctive” lizards of its group.

The area where the Quartzite brookiish gecko was discovered is not known for its native biodiversity, the study said. Still, researchers encouraged further study of this habitat because it “could (harbor) more undiscovered species.”

Thoothukudi is a port city in Tamil Nadu, a state along the southeastern coast of India, about 1,575 miles south of New Delhi.

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