Researchers discover new gecko species endemic to Eastern Hajar Mountains

Muscat - 

An international research team, studying reptile fauna in the sultanate, has discovered a new species of gecko of the genus Asaccus endemic to the Eastern Hajar Mountains of Oman. 

With the new discovery, the total number of reptile species discovered so far by the team has reached 21 since 2012, taking the total number of reptile species in Oman to 101, of which 20 are endemic to the sultanate.

“We have just published a new manuscript in which we describe a new species of gecko endemic to the Eastern Hajar Mountains. I think that it is a very important discovery that highlights again how little we still know about the interesting biodiversity of the Hajar Mountains, one of the top biodiversity hot-spots in the whole of Arabia,” said Dr Salvador Carranza from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Spain, who has been researching on reptiles in Oman for over a decade.

new gecko species

The new species has been named Asaccus arnoldi in honour of Dr E Nicholas Arnold for his life-long dedication and contribution to Arabian herpetology, including the description of the little-known gecko Asaccus gallagheri (a close relative to the newly described species) 45 years ago, explained Dr Carranza.

“With only 3cm of body size, this elegantly built big-eyed slim gecko endemic to the Eastern Hajars is very small and despite being nocturnal it presents sexually dimorphic tail colour, being white barred black in females and bright orange-yellow in males,” he said.

The Hajar Mountains is a unique mountain range and so far it has 20 described endemic species of reptiles, Dr Carranza added, saying that many more species will be described soon.

a“As a result of its relatively old geological origin, complex topography, environmental heterogeneity and geographic isolation from other mountain ranges, its fauna and flora have diversified significantly producing high levels of endemicity, particularly amongst reptiles,” he said.

Several genetic studies indicate that this diversity may still be underestimated, especially within some groups containing morphologically similar species like the nocturnal geckos of the genus Asaccus. “We therefore suggest that these mountains should be a priority focal point for conservation in Arabia,” he concluded.

The research is being undertaken with the collaboration from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Oman, CIBIO/InBIO, Portugal and the University of California, US.

The first author of the study, published in the International Journal Systematics and Biodiversity, is Marc Simó-Riudalbas and supported by Thuraya al Sariri from MECA along with other researchers.

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