A new species of the ground-dwelling lizard, also called the gecko, has been discovered in the plateaus of Satara district in south-central Maharashtra.
Belonging to the genus Hemidactylus, it is a member of a group of chiefly terrestrial Indian Hemidactylus species that have undivided or only party divided sub-digital lamellae or the fingers of the lizard.
The discovery - made in 2003 - was a collaborative effort between Varad B Giri, a scientist with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Aaron M. Bauer of Villanova University, US. The duo's findings and research were confirmed and a paper detailing the discovery published in Zootaxa journal's February 2008 issue.
Giri told IANS that presently this species is only known to exist in and around Satara in the Western Ghats of the state.
"This region is unique in the presence of large laterite or basaltic plateaus on the crests of mountains where semi-evergreen forest make up the valley vegetation. Apart from their unique ecological features, these plateaus have a unique floral and faunal diversity," Giri said Tuesday.
The northern Western Ghats, especially the parts in Maharashtra, are relatively unexplored and there is little information regarding the amphibians and reptiles of this region.
In fact, the scientist said that in the last four years three new species of amphibians have been discovered in Maharashtra.
"All the new discoveries were the result of localised surveys with moderate search efforts. We are confident that with intensive and systematic surveys it will be possible to further increase our knowledge of reptiles of the northern Western Ghats," Giri said.
There are excellent examples of the highly diverse and intact forests of the Western Ghats across Maharshtra, but in the Satara district the forest is more fragmented and is increasingly being degraded by human exploitation.
Though herpetologically unexplored, the occurrence of a new ground dwelling lizard highlights the uniqueness of this region. As this area has large expanses of plateaus, efforts are now being made to confirm the occurrence of this species from other likely areas. Herpetology is the branch of zoology that studies reptiles and amphibians.