Extinct lizard rediscovered after 135 years

Geckoella Jeyporensis

Geckoella Jeyporensis or Jeypore ground gecko, an enigmatic lizard from the Eastern Ghats which was considered extinct, has been rediscovered after 135 years, according to naturalists at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) here.

This species was recently rediscovered in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, the results of which have been published in journal 'Hamadryad', the product of two years of collaborative work between scientists from Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai and Villanova University, USA.

This gecko, a lizard of the family Gekkonidae, is morphologically unique and was known only from a single male specimen collected in 1877 by British Colonel, R H Beddome, from the Jeypore Hills (in Orissa).

Though subsequent efforts were made by researchers, scientists and nature enthusiasts, this species was not seen in the intervening 130 plus years, naturalist Varad Giri told PTI.

The story of the rediscovery began in 2008-2009, when a PhD student at CES, Ishan Agarwal, began working on the genus Geckoella. Ishan was desperate to find this lost species in order to understand more about its evolutionary history, he said.

The first steps toward rediscovering the species involved a lot of homework, poring over the scanty published information on the species, in an effort to retrace the journey Colonel Beddome made in the Eastern Ghats over a century ago, Giri said.

The only clues on the whereabouts of this species were from its original description, which said that this species was collected under a rock in a forest at 4,200 ft on

'Patinghe Hill, Jeypore' in the Eastern Ghats, he said.

Finally, in 2010, a team from CES embarked on a field trip to try and locate this species. The team included two members of Karanth Lab, CES, Ishan Agarwal and Aniruddha Datta-Roy and their field assistant, Tarun Khichi.

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