A stunning new species of Australian leaf-tailed gecko described this week in Zootaxa
This week has seen the description of a really spectacular new gecko: a new member of the genus Phyllurus, one of Australia’s leaf-tailed geckos (pictured above), from Cape Melville in north-east Queensland. The new species, Saltuarius eximius sp. nov., differs in a large number of morphological features from other members of the genus.
Madagascar’s Uroplatus geckos and Australia’s Saltaurius, Phyllurus, and Orraya geckos have converged on a superficially similar body plan and strategy for crypsis - both groups are colloquially referred to as ‘leaf-tailed geckos’: they have developed dorsoventrally flattened tails with lateral flanges of skin which diffuse the outline of the geckos in their natural habitat. The details of the crypsis are obviously very different, but this is only to be expected in geckos that are so incredibly distantly related.
Interestingly, convergence has been extensive, in spite of the fact that, while Uroplatus geckos are arboreal sensu lato (they live on trees), Australia’s leaf-tailed geckos are saxicolous - they live on rocks.
Here’s the Abstract from the publication (which is open access!):
Leaf-tailed geckos are a distinctive group of carphodactyline geckos of rainforests and rocky habitats of eastern Australia. Three genera are recognized: Phyllurus (9 species), Saltuarius (6 species) and Orraya (1 species). Leaf-tailed geckos have been the subject of much survey and taxonomic work because they are large, impressive geckos and generally have highly localized distributions. The six species comprising Saltuarius are distributed in rock outcrops and rainforests along the ranges from northern New South Wales to the Wet Tropics region of north-east Queensland. Here we report the discovery of a new Saltuarius species at Cape Melville, a rainforest outlier on Cape York Peninsula in north-east Queensland. The new species is assigned to Saltuarius based on morphological and genetic data. Saltuarius eximius sp. nov. is highly dis- tinct from all congeners in many aspects of morphology. It has a very long slender form, with relatively longer limbs, longer body, narrower body and narrower neck than all congeners. It also has a highly distinct head that is relatively smaller than that of all other Saltuarius, with very large eyes that are grey rather than patterned. The tail is large but with a relatively short attenuated tip. Saltuarius eximius sp. nov. appears to be highly localized to upland rainforest associated with boulder habitat in the Cape Melville Range. The unusual elongate form and large eyes of S. eximius sp. nov. likely reflect adaptation to deep boulder habitat. Two other new vertebrate species (a skink and a frog) were discovered in the rainforest and boulder-fields of Cape Melville during recent surveys, bringing the number of vertebrates known to be endemic to the Cape Melville Range to six (three frogs, two skinks and one gecko).
Hoskin, C. J. & P. Couper (2013) ‘A spectacular new leaf-tailed gecko (Carphodactylidae: Saltuarius) from the Melville Range, north-east Australia’ Zootaxa 3717(4):543-558
The photos above are from the publication, taken by Conrad Hoskin.