April 20, 2012
Bumblebee Gecko Discovered In Papua New Guinea
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), a new species of gecko has been discovered in Papua New Guinea. Dressed in black and yellow stripes, biologists from the Papua New Guinea National Museum say the gecko resembles a bumblebee. Its unique coloring and rows of skin nodules act as camouflage for the gecko who lives on the forest floor.
According to the survey, specimens of the new lizard measure about 5 inches long from head to tail. Specimens were captured in 2010 in Sohoniliu Village on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Herpetologists George Zug of the Smithsonian Institution and Robert Fisher of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center described the new species in a report published in Zootaxa.
“The discovery of a new species from deep in the forests of New Guinea is a cause for celebration, adding one more chapter to ℠The Book of Life,´” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt, according to the USGS release.“Now the real work begins! To fill those pages with the wonders of this new creature, its place in the forest ecosystem, its adaptation to its environment, and perhaps even novel strategies for coping with disease from which we will ultimately benefit.”
The new gecko doesn´t only share its looks with a bumblebee. According to Robert Fisher, “We´ve officially named it Nactus kunan for its striking color pattern – kunan means ℠bumblebee´ in the local Nali language.”
“It belongs to a genus of slender-toed geckos, which means these guys don´t have the padded, wall-climbing toes like the common house gecko, or the day gecko in the car insurance commercials.”
Fisher found 2 individual specimens of the gecko in May 2010 on Manus Island off the north eastern shore of Papua New Guinea. Once he analyzed their genetics, Fisher discovered the lizards were not only new but distinctive from other lizards. During the same trip, Fisher found two additional specimens, though they are awaiting further analysis.
“This species was a striking surprise, as I´ve been working on the genus since the 1970s, and would not have predicted this discovery,” says Zug, who is curator emeritus at the National Museum of Natural History in New York.
As investigation of Manus Island has just gone underway, the researchers and zoologists involved with the bumblebee gecko discovery are pleased with their results, and hope to learn even more about the island in the future.
“Exploration of Manus Province is in its infancy, with many new species possible, and this joint expedition was our first to this region,” says Bulisa Iova, the reptile curator at the Papua New Guinea National Museum.
As more and more researchers survey Papua New Guinea, it appears the small Australian neighbor has plenty of interesting creatures residing there. Earlier in the year, researchers from Louisiana State University discovered the tiniest vertebrate species on Earth lived in Papua New Guinea. The frog, named Paedophryne amauensis, named after Amau Village in Papua New Guinea where it was found, measures in at only .27 to .31 inches long, small enough to easily fit on a dime.
Image Caption: The Bumblebee Gecko (Nactus kunan), from Papua New Guinea was discovered in 2010, and described as a new species in 2012. Credit: Robert Fisher, U.S. Geological Survey