Two Australian biologists have described a new species of leaf-tailed gecko in the genus Saltuarius.
Leaf-tailed geckos are large, impressive lizards that are highly camouflaged against rocks and tree trunks. Most species are rainforest dependent but some occur in drier habitats in association with rock. These geckos are restricted to eastern Australia, with species having highly localized distributions, including some found on a single mountain or range.
The six previously known species of the genus Saltuarius are distributed in rock outcrops and rainforests along the ranges from northern New South Wales to the Wet Tropics region of north-east Queensland.
The newly discovered species, scientifically named Saltuarius eximius, is known only from the vicinity of the type locality in the uplands of the Melville Range, Cape Melville.
“The discovery of Saltuarius eximius brings the number of Saltuarius to seven, and extends the distribution of the genus 180 km north from the northern end of the range of Saltuarius cornutus in the Cooktown region to Cape Melville,” wrote Dr Conrad Hoskin of James Cook University in Townsville and Dr Patrick Couper from Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia, authors of the paper published in the journal Zootaxa (full paper in .pdf).
“Six individuals have been found, all in close proximity in an area of granite boulders covered by a rainforest canopy.”
The proposed common name of the species is the Cape Melville Leaf-tailed Gecko. The specific name eximius means exceptional, extraordinary, exquisite, in Latin.
The new gecko, measuring about 12 cm and weighing around 20 g, has short head and very large eyes.
“When first sighted the geckos were motionless and positioned head-down, with the anterior half of their body raised well off the surface and their head held parallel with the surface. In this foraging pose, Saltuarius eximius is no doubt primarily a sit-and-wait predator like other leaftail geckos. Several of the geckos made an extended squeaking sound when first captured,” Dr Hoskin and Dr Couper wrote.
Bibliographic information: Conrad J. Hoskin & Patrick Couper. 2013. A spectacular new leaf-tailed gecko (Carphodactylidae: Saltuarius) from the Melville Range, north-east Australia. Zootaxa 3717 (4): 543–558