Animals developed many methods of protecting themselves from predators. Still, a new Geckolpis gecko species which has been eluding scientists has a quite unusual one. The species gets naked by shedding its scales.
Have you heard about the Geckolepis megalepis? Don’t worry if you haven’t. Scientists have just recently decided on this name as they are studying the elusive lizard.
Scientists have known about it for quite some time. But the species has managed to evade most studies for more than 150 years. But the researchers did not back down. And this week, for the first time in over 75 years, they named a new species.
This will be the aforementioned Geckolepis megalepis. Research on the matter was carried by an international team of researchers. They were led by Mark Scherz. He is a herpetology Ph.D. candidate at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat and Zoologische Staatssammlung, Munchen, Germany.
A study paper was released earlier this week. It was published in the PeerJ journal. Available online since February 07, it was titled as follows. “Off the scale: a new species of fish-scale gecko (Squamata: Gekkonidae Geckolepis) with exceptionally large scales”.
Geckolepis lizards are commonly known as fish scale geckos. They are an endemic species to the Comoro Islands and Madagascar. They are an arboreal, nocturnal genus. One which feeds on insects.
And this newly named species seems to have an unusual property. It is covered in large, fish-like scales. But not only that. The recent research noted that these scales can also be shed. This takes place as the animal encounters friction. Like when fighting off a predator.
Mark Scherz went to offer details. “This may mean that it’s easier for it to escape from predators than for related species that have considerably smaller scales.” Or it may have the exact opposite effect.
Still, preliminary studies consider it a protective measure. A perhaps unusual one. Although the Geckolepis gets “naked” in order to escape, it does not remain as such. Careful observations revealed that the scales grow back. The process was noted to take several weeks.
When describing the new species, Scherz also stated the following. “Every time we describe a new species, we give a little bit of hope for the conservation of that species”.
This process could help save animals. Especially those that are considered or may become critically endangered. And these Madagascan geckos may be one such animal.
Researchers believe that many more Geckolepis species may be living on the island. But in tiny, fragmented regions. Is such areas are destroyed then, most likely, the animals will be too.
The newly-named Geckolepis megalepis was not actually spotted. Scherz and his team based their study on bone samples. They managed to identify based on its bone structure.
Researchers chose this path as alive specimens are very difficult to study. They are both very elusive. And they were rarely seen with all their scales on their bodies. As such, micro-CT scans were somewhat much more useful. The scientists analyzed museum preserved specimens.
Previous studies theorize that there are around 10 Geckolepis species. These are all genetically distinct. Four of them have already been identified. This is the fifth. As such, there are 5 or perhaps more left to be determined.
According to Scherz, he and his team set out with the following purpose. They were looking “to provide the first knowledge, the baseline” understanding of this species.
Future studies could further advance their findings. And they could also attract another attention towards them. Researchers could start studying them at a cellular level. Geckolepis megalepis could become important regeneration study subjects.
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