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A new species of gecko has been discovered deep in the forests of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in India.
Eublepharis pictus, also known as the Painted Leopard Gecko, was first spotted in 2017 by researchers Zeeshan A. Mirza of the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore and C. Gnaneswar of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in Chennai.
They found a gecko in a water tank near a temple in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, during a field survey. Back then, they identified it as belonging to the East Indian Leopard Gecko species (Eublepharis hardwickii).
"The species appears to be common in the hill forests, but its distinctness was only confirmed by other researchers," Mirza explained.
In a phylogenetic study, where they looked for the evolutionary history and relationships within and between the leopard gecko species in the genus Eublepharis, the researchers found that what had until then been considered a southern population of East Indian Leopard Gecko might be distinct enough to represent a new species. Once they had molecular data they could work with, the team made morphological comparisons between the species, looking at specimens across natural history museums.
Even though the Painted Leopard Gecko seems to be widespread across the state of Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh, the researchers worry about its conservation.
"The species is collected for the pet trade and even now may be smuggled illegally," they write in their paper, which is why they refrain from giving out the exact locations where it may be found.