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New species of gecko discovered in Vairengte, named after the town

The newly discovered Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis

Aizawl: In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists have identified a new species of Cyrtodactylus, a genus of geckos, in Vairengte town, located in the Kolasib district in Mizoram. 

This finding marks the sixth endemic Cyrtodactylus species from Mizoram and the twenty-second from the broader north-eastern India region.

The research, led by a team of scientists from Mizoram University, utilised a combination of molecular analysis and morphological parameters to characterise the newly discovered species, named Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis.

Phylogenetic Evidence and Morphological Distinctions

The scientists determined that Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis is a member of the Indo-Burman Cyrtodactylus khasiensis clade, based on ND2 gene sequences and various morphological features such as the number of precloacal pores, mid-ventral scale rows, paravertebral tubercles on the trunk, dorsal tubercle rows, subdigital lamellae on pes, and subcaudal scalation.

The phylogenetic evidence further indicates that the newly discovered species is closely related to C. aaronbaueri, a species recently described. Morphological analyses revealed slight distinctions between Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis and C. aaronbaueri, particularly in the PCA (Principal Component Analysis) of infralabials, lamellae on fingers and toes, paravertebral tubercles on the trunk, and dorsal tubercle rows.

Expanding the Understanding of Cyrtodactylus in North-Eastern India

Cyrtodactylus, known as the third most speciose vertebrate genus globally, is widespread, ranging from South Asia to Melanesia. The genus comprises 335 species grouped into 31 clades or groups. In India alone, there are currently 42 recognized species of Cyrtodactylus, with Mizoram contributing significantly to this diversity.

Previously, only C. khasiensis was known to inhabit Mizoram until recent studies challenged its occurrence in the state. The discovery of Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis, along with five other species in Mizoram, underscores the richness of biodiversity in the region.

Classification and Partitioning of Cyrtodactylus

The researchers followed the classification proposed by Grismer et al. (2021), identifying four species groups within the ‘khasiensis group.’ This partitioning provides a more refined understanding of the diversity within the genus.

Materials and Methods

To conduct their study, the scientists conducted extensive field surveys in the Kolasib District of Mizoram, obtaining necessary permissions for specimen collection. The collected samples were then preserved and deposited in the National Zoological Collection at Mizoram University.

Morphological analyses were performed, comparing the newly discovered species with known species from the ‘khasiensis group’ and C. kamengensis from the peguensis group. Additionally, molecular data, specifically ND2 gene sequences, were analyzed to provide further support for the species classification.

Future Implications and Conservation

“The discovery of Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis not only contributes to the scientific understanding of gecko diversity but also emphasizes the importance of continued research and conservation efforts in north-eastern India,” team leader H T Lalremsanga said. 

As habitats face various threats, including habitat loss and climate change, documenting and protecting unique species like Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis becomes crucial for preserving biodiversity.

This groundbreaking research showcases the significance of collaborative efforts in uncovering and preserving the rich biodiversity of Mizoram and the broader north-eastern India region, Lalremsanga added.

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