• Researchers described a new leopard gecko species
  • It was once thought to be the southern population of another species
  • Researchers chose not to reveal its exact location

Researchers have described a new gecko species that was previously misidentified. However, they are mum about the new species' exact location to ensure its safety.

It was in July 2017 when the researchers recovered the "recently dead" specimen in a water tank near a temple in Andhra Pradesh, India, they wrote in their paper published in Evolutionary Systematics. However, they identified it as an East Indian Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis hardwickii) at the time, Pensoft Publishers noted in a blog.

They discovered just how different the creature truly is during a phylogenetic study of the genus Eublepharis. The genus is represented by six species, four of which can be found in India, the researchers said, adding that it is the "least attended genus in terms of its taxonomy."

Indeed, they found that what was once thought to be a southern population of the East Indian Leopard Gecko was "distinct enough" to be a separate species, Pensoft noted.

They named it the Painted Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis pictus), with "pictus" being the Latin word for "painted," something that suits the species' unique coloration. One can see its stunning coloration in the photos shared by the researchers here and here.

According to the researchers, the E. pictus is a bit larger than usual leopard geckos with a "fairly large head," and it is said to be "strictly nocturnal" as it begins foraging after dusk. With its discovery, this now brings the Eublepharis genus number to seven.

Although the researchers noted that the species' distribution is across the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh and that it lives in dry evergreen forests, they did not state specifically where it can be found to protect it from being collected.

"We here refrain from providing accurate locations of the species to ensure protection from illegal collection for the pet trade," the researchers wrote.

Indeed, in a recent major assessment, researchers found that about 21% of reptile species are actually at risk of extinction. Being collected for the pet trade is among the major threats they are facing along with over-exploitation, climate change, logging, urban development and even being killed for food.

Another threat it faces is being killed out of fear, which prompted the researchers to explain the importance of raising awareness that leopard geckos are harmless.

They also recommend listing it and the E. hardwickii as Near Threatened "pending further information on local population estimates."

"The species is collected for the pet trade and even now may be smuggled illegally," the researchers wrote. "Its listing as Near Threatened may contribute to minimizing the illegal trade."

According to the researchers, the discovery shows that the region "warrants dedicated surveys" and efforts to be protected from fragmentation.

"The presence of yet another distinct lineage in such close geographical proximity in the northern Eastern Ghats highlights the significance of these relic forests and advocates the need for conservation prioritization," the researchers wrote.

Jungle Rainforest
Representative image of a jungle/rainforest. Pixabay