Unexpected Discovery of Two New Gecko Species in Thailand

Top: Cha-Am leaf-toed gecko (Dixonius pawangkhananti), Bottom: Ranong leaf-toed gecko (Dixonius dulayaphitakorum), both (c) Montri Sumontha
22/10/2020
Unexpected Discovery of Two New Gecko Species in Thailand
post by
Siska Van Parys

A team of researchers from Thailand and Belgium discovered two new gecko species, in two very unexpected places: next to a famous Buddhist temple in Cha-Am and in the middle of the city Ranong. The two new species belong to the genus Dixonius, a group of small ground- and rock-dwelling geckos.

The rich biodiversity of Thailand is far from completely inventoried. Olivier Pauwels, Curator of Vertebrates at the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, has been inventorying and describing reptiles with his Thai colleague Montri Sumontha (Ranong Marine Fisheries Research and Development Station) for over 20 years. Together, they discovered countless new species in remote areas all over Thailand. But the most recent discoveries of two gecko species were made in places they did not expect …

Leaf-toes

The two new species belong to the genus Dixonius, a group of small ground- and rock-dwelling geckos. They are sometimes called leaf-toed geckos because the adhesive pad at the end of their toes resembles a tiny ginkgo leaf! Dixonius-members are generally less than 10 centimeters long, tail included, and feed on insects and small spiders.

From Temple …

“We found the first new species on a hill at just a few kilometers from Cha-Am beach. This hill houses a famous Buddhist temple, Wat Nikhom Wachiraram, visited by thousands of travelers every year. Not exactly a place where you imagine finding many unknown species!”, laughs Pauwels. The gecko received the scientific name Dixonius pawangkhananti, dedicated to the Thai zoologist Parinya Pawangkhanant. Its suggested English common name is Cha-Am leaf-toed gecko. So, even the touristic hotspot Cha-Am now has its own unique gecko species!

… to Garden

“The second discovery was even more surprising” says Pauwels. “It was first found by Montri, in a garden within a few meters from his office in the city of Ranong, where he had been working for several years already!” The researchers named it Dixonius dulayaphitakorum, and its proposed English common name is – you guessed it - the Ranong leaf-toed gecko.

 

The two new species were described in the scientific journal Zootaxa. These new geckos are respectively the 10th and 11th species in their genus and bring the number of Dixonius species endemic to Thailand to five.

 

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