Cyrtodactylus sp. Credit: Dr L. Lee Grismer

A very small region of Myanmar reveals a huge number of new gecko species — found predominantly in karst limestone. 

Many of the species discovered have strikingly striped patterns and their proximity highlights the amazing biodiversity of these limestone ecosystems. The gecko species were found over the course of just two weeks within an area spanning 56 miles by 31 miles.

Scientists have highlighted 12 new species of bent-toed gecko from the genus Cyrtodactylus and three dwarf geckos from the genus Hemiphyllodactylus. The discovery has prompted publication in three upcoming journal entries.

“I was quite surprised both by the numbers but even more so by the close proximity of the species to one another,” Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in California, who led the surveys, told Mongabay. “Nothing like this has ever been discovered in this group. The published official count now is 15 and I will submit a paper soon describing another four.”

Cyrtodactylus sp. Credit: Dr L. Lee Grismer

The discovery is significant because these geckos were found in endangered microhabitats in a part of the world enduring civil unrest. Conservationists hope this massive discovery might prevent planned cement mining in this area.

The scientists responsible for these unique findings were led by Dr L. Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in California and comprised members from Fauna & Flora International, the Universiti Sains Malaysia and Brigham Young University as well as researchers from the Myanmar Forest Department.

This new discovery brings to light the increased conservation efforts that need to be implemented into karst ecosystems.

“Hundreds of new species could face extinction without proper management,” Dr. Grismer states, “but this [management] cannot happen unless these species are discovered and described – hence why we are ramping up our efforts in these regions.”

Hemiphyllodactylus montawaensis. Credit: Dr L. Lee Grismer