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New gecko species discovered in Papua New Guinea - Nactus kunan or bumblebee gecko

By Dave Armstrong - 19 Apr 2012 14:43:43 GMT
The bumblebee gecko from Papua New Guinea - Nactus kunan

Bumblebee Gecko (Nactus kunan) of Manus Island, Admiralty Islands, Papua New Guinea; Credit: Robert Fisher from the U.S. Geological Survey

Bumblebees and geckos don't normally get on, but this new species from Papua New Guinea's Admiralty Islands is named after the word for bumblebee (kunan) in the Nali language from the south-east of Manus Island, where Margaret Mead wrote her book, "Growing up in New Guinea".

Nactus kunan has been found to be a new species and part of the N.pelagicus group within the Nactus genus. Fortunatley, unlike some new discoveries, this gecko is thought to be widespread, but only on the island on which it is endemic. It is vividly coloured in brown and yellow stripes, completely different from its only fellow-Nactid on the island, which having arrived from Oceania around WW2, seems to be an invader from the east.

These slender-toed geckos do not hang on the ceiling like our familiar friends. They have totally different feet, adapted for living on the jungle floors of the Pacific Basin from Fiji to Papua New Guinea and NE Australia.

The new species is camouflaged despite its bee-like colours, with numerous rows of tubercles helping to disguise its five-inch (14cm) length among the leaf litter This distribution of course gives reason to explore how geological events have influenced fauna and flora.

The Bumblebee Gecko (Nactus kunan), was first discovered in 2010, and classified as a new species in 2012

The Bumblebee Gecko (Nactus kunan), was first discovered in 2010, and classified as a new species in 2012; Credit: Robert Fisher from the U.S. Geological Survey

The lizards also give clues to geologists in this case, of how and when the local land movement took place, around 10 mya. The base model of Nactid is brown and modest in size, although there are three dwarf species from the north coasts of Papua New Guinea. As these islands are relatively unexplored and the genus is so camouflaged, research has always been limited so far.

As it stands, five bisexual (normal) populations of the brownish Nactus spp. exist on Papua New Guinea, but several other populations such as the Samoan gecko have evolved the typical lizard parthenogenesis, leaving them as unisexual populations. Being alone on an island must do strange things to you.

The full research paper by George R. Zug & Robert N. Fisher has been published in the zoological journal Zootaxa.

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Topics: Reptiles / New Species